I finished it! I am on the train headed back to California and found the time to finish the second half of this long novel. The best word I can use to describe this book is Whitmanian — in fact, I think one could argue this as an epic poem and perhaps reach beyond the novel, though I don’t want to speak for Lessing, who identified the piece as a novel.
I enjoyed the format — 4 notebooks, each with different character, woven together into one final golden notebook. There is a ton of thematic redundancy within all notebooks, affording the reader the opportunity to continually revisit similar ideas, and sometimes nearly identical scenes.
At first the format was hard to keep up with — is Paul in the yellow notebook the same as Paul in the blue notebook? Over time, I got the hang of it and found pleasure in my confusion at times. I let it all wash over me and continued reading in spite of my doubts — I find this to be key for me when reading longer works.
Anna Wulf, the protagonist, might be one of the most relatable characters I’ve met in some time. The depth of thinking Lessing captures in text is remarkable and admirable to me — I can only hope to scratch the surface of this skill. There is a constant self-talk throughout the book that permeates the reader — you can’t help but feel much like Anna, at least in my experience.
I enjoyed this book and hope others will give it a chance, despite its length. I always try to read at least one book over 500 pages during our reading sessions and am happy to have completed this goal!