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Publisher's Summary

One of the most important books of the growing feminist movement of the 1950s, The Golden Notebook was brought to the attention of a wider public by the Nobel Prize award to Doris Lessing in 2007.

Author Anna Wulf attempts to overcome writer’s block by writing a comprehensive "golden notebook" that draws together the preoccupations of her life, each of which is examined in a different notebook: sources of her creative inspiration in a black book, communism in a red book, the breakdown of her marriage in a yellow book, and day-to-day emotions and dreams in a blue book. Anna’s struggle to unify the various strands of her life – emotional, political, and professional – amasses into a fascinating encyclopaedia of female experience in the ‘50s.

In this authentic, taboo-breaking novel, Lessing brings the plight of women’s lives from obscurity behind closed doors into broad daylight. The Golden Notebook resonates with the concerns and experiences of a great many women and is a true modern classic, thoroughly deserving of its reputation as a feminist bible. A notoriously long and complex work, it is given a new life by this – its first unabridged recording.

©1962 Doris Lessing (P)2010 Naxos Audiobook

Critic Reviews

"The Golden Notebook is Doris Lessing’s most important work and has left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women." (Elizabeth Hardwick, New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Transcendent narration of a masterpiece.

Juliet Stevenson's narration of this classic (which I'd not read since college) is so extraordinary, I have found myself listening to this recording repeatedly, replaying favorite passages, etc. In narrating various characters' dialogue, she maintains consistency of voice and pitch, so the listener (even if somewhat distracted by chores or what have you) is generally able to keep all these lines of narrative straight - no small feat, considering the book's complexity.

I will not only return to this recording again, but I will also seek out additional recordings by the same narrator.

Finally, I will add that the recording is quite well-produced; glitches are nearly non-existent, which seems fantastic given the length of this work.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Melinda
  • San Rafael, CA, United States
  • 10-09-10

Really difficult.

Juliet Stevenson is my current favorite reader, and I thought I liked Doris Lessing. This novel is no less difficult now that it was when I first read it 35 years ago. Historical, interesting and terribly close scrutiny of human relationships. And Stevenson never disappoints, but Lessings work is trying.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Glorianne
  • BOULDER, CO, United States
  • 05-29-12

Groundbreaking novel turns stereotypes upside down

When I first read Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, I was surprised with the ground it was breaking as far as the role of women and their sexuality, the "taking back" as it were, of the sexual landscape. When I read the Golden Notebook, I realized the ground had been broken a decade before.

The novel takes place somewhere around the 1950s and earlier in England. Anna Wulf, a writer, has decided to shun convention. Although she has been married, she is now divorced, and she sleeps with men somewhat carelessly, a contradiction to the Donna Reed stereotypes of the time. She speaks graphically about sex and orgasms and a woman's supposed "place" in society. She is alternately seduced and disillusioned by the Communist party and, perhaps because this novel takes place in England (and was published there), she confronts these subjects bluntly.

There are a lot of frame narratives in the book -- four journals Anna has written in tell her stories, as well as the outside frame of Anna herself. This can get confusing, and while this style is also groundbreaking and in line with postmodern traditions, it can be laborious at times. Still, there are some meaningful moments and if you are willing to be patient, this book will reward you.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Even Months Later, I Keep Thinking About It...

It took some time for me to make my way through this incredible book. It's the sort of work, deeply intelligent in its design and execution, that deserves a lot of thought and percolation. It was months ago that I finished it, yet even now when I think of the story told here, flawlessly delivered by Juliet Stevenson, I remember the excitement of knowing I was wrapped up in truly great storytelling. I had to acquire more Stevenson after falling in love with her voice and the skill of her execution, and went on to her readings of Woolf (also great). I will definitely come back to this again in the future when I once again have the time to savor it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The Best

First, Juliet Stevenson is to my mind the best narrator. Period. I would want her to read any book I might write--even it was about boxing.
I think The Golden Notebook is, by general agreement, the best and most original "feminist novel." It's the one book every feminist writer of any sort looks to for advice. What's amazing to me on rereading is how completely pertinent and alive it is--and how very moving, exciting, and overwhelming. Each of her characters gets up and walks around the room in front of you. They are all now part of my life.
The structure of The Golden Notebook--a form that has been followed (imitated?) in thousands of novels, movies and TV shows for the last fifty years--still works best here in the original as a portrayal of the idea of a woman's fragmented life. THIS IS THE ORIGINAL! Even David Foster Wallace should have acknowledged Lessing in his books, along with Gaddis and every other post-modern stylist.
The Golden Notebook also offers brilliant glimpses into a history that has been obscured by passing events. Where else can you understand the circumstances in which becoming a Communist would be reasonable and right, then feel how shattering disillusionment would be because it was all so obviously wrong? Papa Joe Stalin? Ridiculous! But that's how we won the war. And where would Lessing's Zimbabwe be without the true believers who fought so hard to emerge from the shell of Rhodesia?
The 2007 Nobel Prize citation said Lessing recorded the female experience "with scepticism, fire and visionary power" and "subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny," but this book sings a much greater song: a woman growing stronger and more beautiful by searching for an independent self on whom everyone depends.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • susan
  • Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
  • 03-09-14

Unexpected treat

I downloaded this simply because Lessing died recently and I felt guilty that I had never read her. The narrator was also an incentive.
To my surprise, although I loved the book , found the heroine to be completely believable and found it confusing, (had to go back and re-listen) it was the structure of the book as well as the writing that I found completely compelling and absorbing. This book was dismissed in the past as a 1960's feminist tract. It's so much more than a book about a woman in the 60's. Juliet Stevenson is a superb reader: there are accents and dialects involved and she nails every one. I think this book is a keeper and I will listen again.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Failed Experiment


One has to admire a writer with the courage to break with convention in both form and content. Lessing takes on the subject of women's sexuality, creativity and Communism in the 1050s. But sometimes one can bite off more originality than one can chew.

Anna Wulf is a disaffected Communist novelist who has written one well received book but suffers writer's block, unable to manage a second one. She experiments with various scenarios, each one drafted in a different colored notebook. They are all variations on the same set of themes and,characters in alternate plot lines. Lessing quotes from each notebook in "random" order so that it is difficult to know who is who, and even who is the real Anna or one of her fictional avatars.

The concept, while original for the 1960s, is far too long and padded with chapter after chapter of not very productive, repetitive introspective rambling. And this by a protagonist whose 600 pages of self absorption teaches her nothing. She indulges in attempt after attempt to liberate herself from sexual and political convention, only to revert to the woman who can't live without a man.

Hailed as a feminist, Lessing focuses on just about the most unliberated woman imaginable.

Particularly annoying is the constant refusal to allow the dialogue to speak for itself. Literally hundreds of times she modifies "he/she said" with an adverb or adverbial phrase, her favorites being "ironically," "laughing," and "smiling." It's enough to drive one mad, especially since one has to listen to each one.

Finally, I chose this book because I love Juliet Stevenson's narration and I felt I should read this celebrated work. But even Stevenson couldn't bring it to life, often sounding as bored with the thing as I was.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Flawless!

Except for the tiniest difficulty with North American dialects, Lewis gives a flawless performance. Best I've ever heard Save Robin Sachs performance of The harry Hole novels. The book is a masterpiece, the performance is flawless,: If you like Leading, you cannot go wrong.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Complex and compelling

There were many things I loved about this novel - above all it's a fascinating slice of post-war, pre-sexual revolution, cold war history through the eyes of a rule-bending middle class British woman (Lessing's alter ego?). The structure of the narrative provides a fragmented, prism-like view of Anna's life and times as it alternates between her various notebooks - listeners should be aware of this challenge in the beginning, until it becomes clear what each notebook represents and contains. Some of these (the Africa vignettes) were more interesting to me than others (the Communist Party deconstructions), and there were definitely times when Anna's difficulties and choices got a more than a little annoying, but ultimately it was an enlightening and unforgettable literary experience.

And finally, a word about Juliet Stevenson, the narrator: I believe she could make a phone book sound lively and distinctive... She's one of the reasons I delved into this recording in the first place, and she did not disappoint; her ability to create characters is unmatched (in spite of a little awkwardness with the American accents), and I will always leap at books she performs. (She's such a fun actress, too - catch her in 'Emma', with Gwyneth Paltrow!)

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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This is one if the 4 books I would take to a desert island.

The others are Sinister Street, The Waves, Philip Larkin Collected Poems, The House in Paris.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • ROBERT
  • 12-24-12

Beautifully Perceptive

A wonderfully perceptive writer, Lessing captures the nuances of dialogue and emotion brilliantly. I at several points had to stop and think about the writer's ability to create such brilliant authenticity in fiction. The central character, Anna, is presented with such subtlety and complexity that her thoughts on sexual politics, relationships and frustrated desires become immediately gripping. The narration by Juliet Stevenson enlivens the prose of this book and gives the perfect voice to Anna.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Samera Owusu Tutu
  • 04-07-13

Classic

This is a great book that captures a moment in time perfectly. Definitely worth the listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • jo
  • 11-19-16

it's all very odd, isn't?

delightful at times, painful most of the time. well worth a listen, but I was glad when I finally heard audible's hope..
Juliet Stevenson helps with soldiering through it all.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J Z A
  • 08-24-16

Very very long

Well this is a book about navel gazing. Not my thing. But beautifully written and performed.
The level of introspection was profound to a point of mental health concerns and beyond.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Brunton
  • 03-30-16

Stricken, hard, difficult...

...with little pleasure for reader/listener. Worth the time but at times terribly claustrophobic and painful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Petal
  • 04-13-16

Tedious!

The book takes too long to get anywhere. I tried to put up til Chapter 28 and then decided life was to short to force myself to read it. I saw the great reviews on Audible and really wanted to love it because some of the reviews said it touched on feminist issues. Alas, in the end I just couldn't bear it any longer.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • MR D M EDWARDS
  • 02-11-16

Utterly awful

Would you try another book written by Doris Lessing or narrated by Juliet Stevenson?

We covered this book for book club. Only 2 managed to finish it and both of us really struggled to do so and rated it 2/10.

What was most disappointing about Doris Lessing’s story?

It isn't really a story just a jumble of thoughts.

Would you be willing to try another one of Juliet Stevenson’s performances?

Yes she was the only redeeming factor, she is a great actress.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Golden Notebook?

I disliked it all

Any additional comments?

Don't torture yourself by buying this book

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie Lowther
  • 03-28-15

Gave up

Had been greatly looking forward to this, but gave up half way into part 2 because I just couldn't stand Juliet Stevenson's delivery. Sorry - great actress but such a dull performance here.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Dina Karoomi
  • 11-01-17

Wonderful Reading

I liked the book but could not understand the women willing to sleep and maintain relationships with these awaful men.....not feminist representation to my thinking but then it maybe a generational and cultural issue that I could not identify with their logic

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  • Izzy
  • 08-18-17

Superb and challenging classic novel

Still as fresh and thought provoking as it ever was. Ravishing performances from Juliet Stevenson
I urge every adult human being, especially those of us who write fiction, to immerse yourself in this really quite disturbing experience.
I'm not the same person I was when I first downloaded the book and began listening- the mark of great fiction

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  • Milla Dickens
  • 11-21-17

Worth pushing through to the end!!

Juliet Stevenson should win an award for this narration, quite a tour de force with so many characters and voices done consistently. This book is very long and I almost didn't finish, but I felt I was rewarded in the final chapters as I realised it had been working towards it all along and wasn't as aimless as I had formerly judged it. A highly self conscious novel, it explores consciousness, dreams and subjectivity itself. Glad I kept listening on my walks and rather sad to part company with it today after 4 weeks.

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  • Anna Spencer
  • 09-21-16

A complex but satisfying novel.

The. Golden Notebook is a novel ahead of its time. Complex and innovative, it is a novel or several novels within another. Although written in the '60s, it is, in fact, set in the 1950s. I feel it improbable that women were so promiscuous in this era!

I enjoyed the stories contained in most of the notebooks, but found the political discussions and stories in the red notebook less interesting.

Being such a complex novel, it merits further study.

Juliet Stevenson's narration is brilliant! She engaged my attention throughout.

I am not surprised that Doris Lessing, in 2007, received the Nobel prize for literature. There is a delightful short video of her being told that she has won the award with The Golden Notebook. Her reaction is quite amusing!

This book would appeal to 'the thinking reader.'