Thoughts on The Golden Notebook – Part 1

I’m a little under halfway through Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, and have constantly found myself drawn forward to read more. 

The book focuses on Anna Wulf, a woman in her thirties and seems to cover in the 15 or so years after the second world war. Anna is a writer living mostly off the proceeds of her first book  ‘Frontiers Of War’. 

She keeps a series of notebooks in which she records a variety of subjects, a first draft of her next book, her relationship with her therapist and clippings from newspapers.

The first part of Lessing’s book is called Free Women and covers Anna relationship with her close friend Molly, Molly’s ex husband and her son Tommy. The books moves from this section into her notebooks, although the transition from one part to another is not always immediately and it takes some thought to determine whether we’re hearing part of her published novel, her next draft or something else. 

There is further confusion as it feels that many parts of Anna’s stories, the ones she’s writing are to some degree autobiographical, but then you move onto the parts that presents Anna in the third person, perhaps from Lessing’s view,and then wonder what elements of this are autobiographical. 


The Midnight Fox

I’m a bit surprised that this is the first book I written about here, but it is the only book that I’ve actually finished reading in the last couple of weeks, mostly because it’s the one that I’ve been reading to my son at bedtime.

Betsy Byars’ The Midnight Fox tells the story of Tommy who is sent to stay, against his wishes, with his aunt and uncle on their farm one summer whilst his parents visit Europe.

The story is narrated by Tommy several years after the events, and the first 4 chapters are called Bad News, The Trouble with Leaving, Abandoned and Stranger, which only reinforces the feelings of abandonment that Byars gently puts across. However, that Tommy is retelling the tale should provide some reassurance about the outcome.

Tommy’s comfort and ease on the farm develops after he spots a black fox playing, and Byars beautifully puts across the magic that children can feel watching something new, particularly wildlife,

“It was so great that I wanted it to start over again, like you can turn movie film back and see yourself repeat some fine thing you have done, and I wanted to see the fox leaping over the grass again. In all my life I have never been so excited.”

Tommy also recalls stories from before the summer, particularly about his friend Petie Burkiss. These stories offer a fine understanding of childhood friendships.

“The evening before I went to the farm, my friend Petie came over and we sat on the steps without saying anything. Usually we talked all the time, but that evening we just say there and watched an ant on Petie’s sneaker. Petie was transferring the ant from one sneaker to the other, crossing his legs all kinds of different ways, so that no matter which way the ant ran he was always on a sneaker.”

Tommy’s attachment to the fox grows but is jeopardised when the it kills some chickens and a turkey.  This allows the story to develop as Tommy grows in his relationships with both the fox and with his aunt and uncle.

The Midnight Fox was first published in 1968, but rarely felt old fashioned. The chapters are long enough to move the story on but short enough to mean that you aren’t committed to reading for too  long and too late, handy for 7 year olds.

Broader Horizons

A couple of years ago I rediscovered the joy of reading fiction.

It might have been because I had more time once my son became older or because I stopped working too many hours. Mostly I think it was because I enjoyed it and found it relaxing, and that’s important.

As a result there is a constant question about what I should read next, with the answer in the past being more standard classic texts, interspersed with the occasional contemporary novel. There had also been a degree of snobbishness to what I read, trying to tick off those books that always appear in the lists.

In January 2015 I joined a local book group, and their annual cycle is  the Booker and Bailey’s prize shortlisted nominees, with the occasional Pulitzer thrown in. This has meant that I’ve read much more contemporary fiction than I would previously have done, with much of it already reviewed and recommended by more learned people than me. Importantly for me none of them have been my choice.

The title of this post is Broader Horizons, and along side the bookclub books I have a desire to read books that come from outside my normal range.

Whilst the Baileys prize is solely women authors I still think that I don’t read enough books by women. Neither do I read enough by people of colour, or from non English speaking writers, so the plan is to make sure that I read books in those categories too.

So, in between the bookclub books I’ll also pick up other books,and this blog is to record my thoughts on all the books I read.  I cannot guarantee that I won’t pick up any canon fodder though.

I may also include the other ‘literary’ things that have cross my path.

We’ll see, but I hope you enjoy it.