The rich texture of the intellectual and moral climate created in The Golden Notebook makes it one of the most important novels of the postWorld War II era. Critics not only have praised the ambitious scope of the novel, with its various themes and settings, but also have hailed it as a remarkable accomplishment in aesthetic form. The technically complex structure—with the various notebooks contained in the separate narrative of the “Free Women” sections— generates the novel’s content: Subject and structure thus complement each other in a formalist manner, and the work is fully integrated.
Although the novel is essentially realistic in approach, Anna’s preoccupation with words—and with how words create a fictional reality—gives a metafictional dimension to the work. This aspect of the novel is further developed in the tension between the main story line and the fictional world which Anna creates in her novel, “The Shadow of the Third.” Common to both Anna and her fictional character Ella in “The Shadow of the Third” is the theme of a young woman seeking her identity in the modern world. It is a theme Lessing also develops in the early volumes of the Children of Violence series, through her protagonist Martha Quest. The character of Anna and her struggles to live an authentic life outside the stereotypical roles which have been reserved for women was an inspiration to feminist critics, and The Golden Notebook...
(The entire section is 474 words.)