The Golden Notebook

A teacher recommended The Golden Notebook to me my final year of high school. At the time, I was 16 and wore a Bikini Kill shirt I’d written a feminist quote on every single day. I wore my political views on my sleeve and wasn’t quiet about it, at all. 

I remember buying the book and getting about 100 pages in before wandering off. I tried again maybe three or four times, most recently this past winter. And yet, by March, it was just a decoration on my nightstand.

After a decade I finally finished the book this weekend. By the last quarter of the story, I was so embroiled in the main character’s life that I was starved to find out what happened next.

Backtracking: The Golden Notebook is by one of my favorite writers, Doris Lessing, and tells the story of two “free women,” Anna and Molly. Anna, a once successful writer, documents and compulsively separates her life into four separate notebooks that she tries to tie together into one golden notebook. It’s a story of womanhood, feminism, independence, and creativity.

In the end, Anna is emotionally chaotic, despite her organized journaling process. She’s newly alone, desperate, and throwing herself into relationships that beat against her emotional health. She keeps trying to make sense of the world and her independence, while still finding meaningful connections with others. Essentially, timeless challenges.

There were tons of passages that I underlined, dog-eared, put “!!!!” in the margins, but I loved this one the most:

You think about it then. There are a few of us around in the world, we rely on each other even though we don’t know each other’s names. But we rely on each other all the time. We’re a team, we’re the ones who haven’t given in, who’ll go on fighting. I tell you, Anna, sometimes I pick up a book and I say: Well, so you’ve written it first, have you? Good for you. O.K., then I won’t have to write it.

It’s kind of neat that it took me so long. With each part of the story, I was reading the section that I needed at that time, or needed to revisit at that time. And Lessing is still one of my favorite authors.

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