Kirkus Star


A Novel
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Doris Lessing has been established in England, rather than here, as one of the most interesting writers since the '40's and this remarkable book, unquestionably her major work to date, reflects a savage intelligence which does not exclude passion. Technically the novel is intriguing, subdivided in alternating, cyclical sections, and the prefatory Free Women introduce Anna Wulf and her friend Molly, emancipated and enlightened, living "emotionally hand to mouth". Most of the novel however is devoted to the notebooks kept by Anna: The Black Notebook which covers a period during the war in South Africa and a first nostalgic love; The Red Notebook spans the 1950's, her entry into the Party, her disaffection and a five year affair; The Yellow Notebook is a novel written within this novel in which she projects and paraphrases her own experience; and The Blue Notebook, the most contemporary, is filled with her analysis, a short-lived marriage, her daughter, and finally a very devastating affair which leads up to the final reprise in the notebook of the title. Perhaps a claim of one of the characters may be used to define the book, that the real revolution of our time is not Chinese- not Russian- but that of "women against men", women, like Anna, who achieve freedom only to submit to chaos, and certainly the notebooks are a device to mirror her anxiety, discomfort and fragmentation as she drifts through experiences with careful men, non-committed men, castrated men. With all its passionate probing and deliberate truthtelling, it is sexually, biologically clinical to a point which may offend some readers. Others will find it a painful, revelatory, fascinating book, and while Doris Lessing is not as glittering a writer as Simone de Beauvoir, some of her concerns may occasion the comparison and suggest a market.

ISBN: 0061582484
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1962


NonfictionALFRED AND EMILY by Doris Lessing
by Doris Lessing
FictionTHE CLEFT by Doris Lessing
by Doris Lessing