Probably just some random thoughts on reading this; Who can find time to read a book properly, let alone properly write and structure a blog post? I can’t remember how it ended up on my reading list, but it was probably via a comment on The Guardian. I picked this one off my list since it was one of the bigger ones on there and I thought that would make more sense for lockdown (especially since at the time you could only order one book at a time on Hive), but I wasn’t really thinking things through as, if anything, I’ve had even less spare time during lockdown than normal.
As always, I did not read the preface until after I’d read the book - and having read it, it strikes me as odd Doris Lessing included one at all seeing as how much of it is about the importance of making one’s own mind up about a book (and this book in particular).
It’s another book that I’m not really intelligent enough for and now need to go and read articles on to understand. Or perhaps I just struggled to understand because it’s so difficult to find uninterrupted reading time? Even if I’m capable of putting down my phone for five minutes it doesn’t mean someone else isn’t going to interrupt me and there is only so much time you can spend on the toilet; Reading is harder in 2020 than it was in 1990.
It’s a book about many things: Politics - obvious because of communism, but I do wonder if it had been about more contemporary politics whether it would have been as noticeable?; Writing itself - thank god for the blurb on the back which I did read first and tells you what each of the coloured notebooks are; Feminism ish - there is the obvious side such as chapter titles called “Free Women”, but the rest is (probably intentionally) conflicting and affairs and monogamy are both good and bad depending on whether you are the benefactor or not; Sex - there is a lot of sex, it’s not descriptive and is reduce to pretty much a two words (“made love”), but there’s still a lot of it going on; Parenting and the age old thing of whether liberal parents result in more conservative children (and vice versa); The touches on racial issues were accidentally cogent given events this year.
It was (for me) pretty hard going. Some parts in the note books, the black one especially, are a joy to read and you completely forget you are in a story within a story, but the rest is difficult. On that note (“story in a story”), the true identity of Ella isn’t explicitly revealed until quite some way into the book, but you know who it is by then anyway and then of course wonder (as others have done) how much of Anna is the author. My overall take of the book would be the author saying:
I am not defined by one thing, but all these things and even now I don’t understand if that’s everything or how it all relates to make up me.
And perhaps, if we all tried to write about the component parts that make up ourselves we’d also realise how much of it is conflicting and we’d end up in a similar mental state as the protagonist - another theme of the book and really has you wondering where it’s going to go at one point (Are the characters and relationships real or manifestations of the protagonist’s personality?); It’s a very “English essay” suitable book.
I’d hoped the actual Golden Notebook chapter would help explain it all and wrap everything up, but no, not really, hence why you are stuck with such a poor interpretation of it by me.
Anyway… I’m sure Doris is glad she’s not here anymore to have yet another person misunderstand her book.
Will post some quotes soon…