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Download Essential Doris Lessing: Excerpts from “The Golden Notebook” Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Essential Doris Lessing: Excerpts from “The Golden Notebook” Audiobook, by Doris Lessing Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.59 out of 53.59 out of 53.59 out of 53.59 out of 53.59 out of 5 3.59 (29 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Doris Lessing Narrator: Doris Lessing Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2007 ISBN: 9780061659294
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A feminist landmark, The Golden Notebook tells the story of writer Anna Wulf and the crises she faces in her personal, political and professional life. Confounded by writer's block, the ferociously independent Wulf explores her situation in four notebooks, one for each of the strands in her life. The Golden Notebook is the one in which, struggling to retain her sanity, she brings these strands together.

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Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen Einstein | 2/15/2014

    " One of my favourite novels. The protagonist keeps five notebooks each of a different colour and each with a different theme. Four are notes on different aspects of her life (experiences in central africa before and during WWII; as a member of a political party; assorted personal memories; a relationship she had which ended) the fifth is a golden coloured notebook where she tries to unite common themes and observations from the other four. Excellent themes, very well narrated. Talented structure. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ayshbot | 1/31/2014

    " Hard work, but so worth it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stela | 1/28/2014

    " While living under Ceausescu's regime, in those days that even today I'm not able to remember without a combination of sadness and irritation, I used to be very angry with Western Socialist and Communist Parties that dared continue to exist in spite of the big revelations of the Gulags and the murders and the terror. I was thinking then that the persistence of such organizations could be explained either by a naive and blind idealism nurtured under the wing of a comfortable capitalist democracy or by a pragmatic acknowledgment of such horrors (errors happen!), since to protest against them would signify to deny the success of this ideology - that is, the famous phrase, "The Party is never wrong" had the same power outside the communist countries it had inside them. Both my assumptions were, unfortunately, true, and are widely illustrated in this remarkable novel: in a particularly significant scene, Michael, learning that three friends of him were hanged in Czechoslovakia "... explained, with much political subtlety, why it was impossible that the Party should frame and hang innocent people; and that these three had perhaps got themselves, without meaning to, into 'objectively' anti-revolutionary positions." Of course, the political idealism isn't the only myth desecrated by Doris Lessing: page after page she proves to us that there is no such thing as liberated woman, free spirit, true love... Using an ingenious narrative technique, the author uses, apparently, two different voices: an impersonal, omniscient one while telling the story of two "Free Women" - Anna and Molly, but also while explaining or describing the notebooks, and Anna's voice for the four notebooks (black, blue, yellow and red) and also for the fifth, the golden one. Seeing herself as a "woman of parts", Anna keeps four notebooks that compartmentalize her life in four sections, in a desperate attempt to find a refugee in one of them whenever she feels like failing another. The black notebook is the portrait of successful-Anna: she had published a novel, Frontiers of War, very well received by the public. Here she keeps a summary of the novel and also the description of some events in her life that inspired it. She records propositions she received to make films TV series, etc., based on her story, that she usually refuses. Some amusing reviews from Soviet papers are also gathered in this notebook, mainly complaining about the lack of revolutionary life in her novel in a parody of the wooden language of socialist countries. The final entry is about a dream she dreamt about a TV film in which she doesn't recognize her story anymore. So the author-Anna ceased to exist, estranged from her work the moment it was finished. The red notebook shows (of course) the communist-Anna. It begins with her decision to adhere to the Communist Party even if her enthusiasm is somehow shattered by the events in the Eastern Europe: "...while most of the criticisms of the Soviet Union are true, there must be a body of people biding their time there, waiting to reverse the present process back to real socialism." This is an Anna who fights hard to conserve her illusions, despite the evidence of dishonesty, cruelty, terror, an Anna who lies herself (like many others) that Stalin and other communist leaders didn't know about all the murders and abuses because to accept this would mean to admit that there is no such thing as decent democracy (We thought this of Ceausescu, too, for a while, and we were living the dream!). Finally she has to accept the reality, and she leaves the Party because: "... the one form of experience people are incapable of learning from is the political experience." Therefore, communist-Anna is also an illusion. The yellow notebook reveals the in-love-Anna who tries to give a sense to her feeling translating it into art. Her story becomes Ella's story, a love-story destined to end just from the beginning because she chose not to see that her relationship with Peter ̸̸ Michael was barren and limited. However, the dénouement leaves Ella ̸ Anna disoriented and not even literature can offer the cathartic liberation: "Literature is analysis after the event.(...) The physical quality of life, that's living, and not the analysis afterwards, or the moments of discord or premonition." So the attempt to ennoble and free Anna by objectifying her feelings failes: "I see Ella, walking slowly about a big empty room, thinking, waiting. I, Anna, see Ella. Who is, of course, Anna. But that is the point, for she is not." Finally, the blue notebook, the hidden-Anna is a diary in which the same problem arises: Anna's true identity and her possible salvation. But the other Annas crowd this notebook as they crowded the others, and the same stories are reanalyzed and the same answers not found. No wonder the last entry talks about a dream of multiple Annas, all menaced to disappear forever. Like firmly and noisily shut doors, every notebook ̸ chapter of Anna's life closes with a black line: the end of another illusion. And this is where I agree with Llosa - this is no feminist book even if feminist groups tried to appropriate it as such - this is, in fact, a very pessimistic novel about failure on every level: social, sentimental, political. The golden notebook is the last attempt towards freedom. And freedom seems to be order, and order is Art. "I was faced with the burden of re-creating order out of the chaos that my life had become." And now the five sections under the title "Free Women" make sense: the impersonal narrative voice could be the writer-Anna's auctorial voice and the narrative structure could be meant to illustrate the complicated relationship between author, narrator and character when the character is the author and the limits between art and life (within the story, though, don't forget this!) are blurred, and the creation is a two-way street from the author creating the character to... the other way around. As someone says: "There are the two women you are, Anna. Write down: The two women were alone in the London flat.'" There are in fact, at least, three. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Colleen Clark | 1/20/2014

    " I liked this a lot when I read it, nearly 25 (!) years ago. I'll have to read it again. I recommend it. When I look at it again I'll add to this. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gwyneth | 1/18/2014

    " This book was difficult to get through. It is over 600 pages and focuses one woman's emotional struggles. I learned some about communism, but would not recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelcie | 1/4/2014

    " God this book was long, but so worth it. I read this novel when I was in a lit class focused on the works of Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood--watching Lessing construct the characters and plot made me wonder how she wrote the novel and made me a Lessing fan for life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jane Ono | 11/27/2013

    " Depicting a writer who is slowly going mad, this book tries to portray her fragmented mind. I wouldn't call this a page-turner, but it does surprise you every now and then. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary Anderton | 11/18/2013

    " this book probably had more influence on my life than any other except maybe The Four Gated City also by Doris Lessing. It helped me to develop my sense of feminism and independence. It also taught me about the extreme state of depression and alternative families. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gillian | 10/26/2013

    " Some books simply do not pass the test of time. This appears to be one of them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda | 3/1/2013

    " I should have read this before I read The Children of Violence. I really loved the series. The Golden Notebook was advanced socially for its time but, for me, did not have the scope or depth of the Children of Violence. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary Banda | 1/6/2013

    " this book is outstanding, it feels like it is alive. the experience of reading this book had me question my life and self. i felt as if i was watching my life from above as i read this book. an very deep experience to read this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Celeste | 11/20/2012

    " It goes on and on. It is well written and all, but I am quite tired of Anna so not that invested in her breakdown. If she'd done it a few hundred pages earlier, I think I'd have gotten more out of it. But sooner or later I will finish it, and read another book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Robert | 10/17/2012

    " The second book of my reading lifespan that I have abandoned ( the other being Infinite Jest) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Miriam | 4/6/2012

    " Read this one a long time ago too but wanted to remember.... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sabrina | 3/18/2012

    " I couldn't even get through 50 pages of this, though it had come highly recommended. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Laurel | 12/28/2011

    " I couldn't get into it. I gave up after 50 pages my usual thing if I am not invested yet. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sara | 6/29/2011

    " I continue to be confused by the book. Time for a re-read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Giovan | 6/2/2011

    " a full deep story of a woman's writers block, her battle with her inner demons and memories of the past. it's both mysterious and lucid, dark and hopeful, and a tinge scary leaving you with a desire to write and write and write. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda | 5/11/2011

    " A book that every woman born before 1968 will identify with, and every one born after will need to read to understand their sister, cousin, friend, mother, aunt. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy | 5/9/2011

    " I don't usually read books like this but I loved it. This book is brilliant and worth the time investment. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Frank | 4/11/2011

    " This was the first Lessing book I ever read, way back when I was in college. The way DL applied her critical intelligence to social situations totally floored me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lynne - The Book Squirrel | 4/7/2011

    " Phew! Although I was listening to the audio version of this book I found it really hard going as it jumped around so much and you could easily get lost with it. I think I got it by half way through the book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Buell | 3/14/2011

    " A novel of ideas that I found difficult to read insofar as it erects a boundary between my experience and that described in the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maryann573 | 3/12/2011

    " Back in the day this book was a revelation to me. A book I could directly relate to wasn't something I saw around much, but I don't know if younger readers would be able to relate to it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 3/4/2011

    " I loved this when I was thirty-something. Still think about it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 3/1/2011

    " It was a struggle for me to plow through this book, but I was determined and more or less accomplished my goal. Aside from the novel itself, I think the the two introductions included in the text are real gifts from the author and gives a framework to her structure and content methodology. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mpho3 | 2/18/2011

    " Anna Wulf is my anti-heroine! At least she was in 1993.... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gillian | 1/19/2011

    " Some books simply do not pass the test of time. This appears to be one of them. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sandy | 1/17/2011

    " Could not get into these characters.... "

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About the Author
Author Doris Lessing

Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Golden Notebook, and The Fifth Child. She died in 2013.