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Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing is not a traditional novel.  The author makes this clear upfront by informing the reader that the "frame" of the book is a 60,000 word short story which could stand on its own.  This story is broken into several parts with selections from the protagonist's notebooks in between.  These notebook entries make up the majority of the book.  The run the gamut from newspaper clippings to stories about her life and her friends.  As with most mechanisms employed by authors to be different, as opposed to just telling their story in a traditional but compelling way, I was skeptical.  While I definitely found certain parts of the notebooks tedious, I enjoyed the book overall.

Image result for the golden notebook

It revolves around the life of Anna Wulf, a communist author in England, from the 1930s to 1950s.  She and her friend Molly get into and out of relationships and become disillusioned with Stalin and the Communist Party.  The novel focuses heavily on the women's sexuality.  I do have to note that they seem to exclusively have relationships with married men and are shocked when they end poorly.  This book also goes into far more depth about female orgasms than I might have preferred.  The book is sharply critical of Stalin's communism, but it also takes some shots at McCarthyism in the United States.  Anna enjoys provoking shocked reactions from producers trying to obtain film rights to her book by telling them that she can't attend meetings in America since, as a communist, she'd be refused or arrested.

One thing I didn't care for is that a different name is use for each of the characters when they're discussed in the notebooks.  I understand that this is intended to show the fragmentation that is a central theme of the novel but I just found it needlessly confusing.  As I said above, I still enjoyed the book overall.

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