Doris Lessing

I'm half-way through Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, and my only complaint is that I can't discuss it with anyone, because I don't know anyone else who is reading the book. Or who has read it. Or who's heard of it. And this structurally and stylistically unusual book, clearly the product of a superb mind, begs to be shared.

Lessing, who was born of British parents in Persia, raised in Southern Rhodesia and has lived in England since 1949, won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year. At eighty-eight, she's the oldest winner, and one of only a handful of women.

The Golden Notebook, published in 1962, is considered her most important work. The novel addresses such themes as women's experiences, being an artist, communism and mental illness.

Time interviewed Lessing this week, and it's worth checking out. I find her frankness refreshing.

The Nobel committee described you as the "epicist of the female experience." Do you agree with that?

Well, they had to say something.

But do you agree with it?

No. I can just see somebody sitting there thinking, "What the hell are we going to say about this one? She doesn't like being called a feminist so what'll we say?" So they scribbled that.

Watch this little video of Lessing's reaction to news of her Nobel Prize win and tell me you don't love her.

The scores on the Amazon reviews are scattered almost evenly from one to five stars. The unimpressed reviewers describe The Golden Notebook as a boring, self-indulgent, depressing and extremely long read. Those who gave it four or five stars hailed it as brilliant and life-changing.

When I pick up the book while sitting down for lunch with the kids, I'm too engrossed to refill the milk glasses the first time I'm asked, but it's not exactly lazy beach reading. I plan to finish and review the (635-page) book in about four weeks.

Consider picking it up yourself, and sharing your thoughts when I post on it next month. A sort of FreshMD book club.