The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook Summary and Analysis of Free Women, Part 3


Tommy ends up surviving his suicide attempt, although he is now blind. Anna spends all her time caring for Molly and Janet, hiding the truth of what happened from her young daughter. Tommy is pleasant, calm, and seems to make good progress at adapting to his new life, but he never speaks of what happened; Anna is frustrated by her inability to reestablish open communication with him. Molly also reports with surprise that Marion is visiting Tommy frequently and has stopped drinking almost entirely. Eventually, Richard asks Anna to come and meet him at his office, where he explains that he is frustrated that Marion is spending all of her time with Tommy and seems to have taken a new interest in politics.

Anna suggests that Richard could hire someone to care for the children while Marion is preoccupied, and she adds that it's better that Marion has stopped drinking. Richard continues to be frustrated by his wife's behavior, and he admits to Anna that he is thinking about getting a divorce, especially since he is hoping to marry his secretary. He wants to send Marion and Tommy on holiday together, but Anna suggests that Tommy is unlikely to go without Molly. Anna and Richard argue, with him asserting his right to remarry and be happy, while she tries to explain how selfish he is being. She finally leaves in anger.

As she makes her way home, Anna thinks about Ivor, the man who rents a room in her flat. Although they initially had an impersonal relationship, he had begun caring for Janet during the time when Anna was preoccupied with Tommy's health and supporting Molly. Recently, Ivor has moved his lover Robbie in with him, and this arrangement makes Anna uneasy. When she arrives home, Marion is waiting for her; she explains that since she has begun spending time with Tommy, she has realized how ignorant she was. Marion asks Anna whether Richard has told her about his hopes for getting a divorce, adding that she knows about him and his secretary. She was planning to go along and agree to the divorce, but Tommy encouraged her to refuse. She and Tommy are also hoping to work in support of an imprisoned African political leader.

Anna is confused and angry since she knows Marion isn't intelligent enough to come up with these types of ideas by herself. After Marion leaves, she telephones Tommy and rebukes him, rattled by how uncomfortable he makes her feel. She has an insulting interaction with Ronnie; the next day she tells Ivor that the two men have to leave. She also explains to Janet that Ivor will be leaving, and she is relieved that her daughter doesn't seem to mind. That night, Ivor speaks with Anna and is able to persuade her to let him stay if Ronnie leaves. Ivor continues to live in the flat, but the relationship returns to being cold.


The aftermath of Tommy's suicide attempt causes various shifts in Anna's life and relationships. She is puzzled by the relationship between Tommy and Marion, and she feels protective of Marion. Anna does not have much faith in Marion's intellectual abilities or social conscience, although she does seem to genuinely like and pity the other woman. Anna's suspicions that Tommy is somehow misleading or exploiting Marion's vulnerabilities might offer a hint of how Anna now thinks of her own political history. Her commitment to leftist politics often hinges on her relationship to men like Michael or Max; perhaps she now thinks that she was manipulated into fighting for causes she can no longer relate to, or which she now sees in more complex terms.

Anna also continues to try to intervene in Richard's life, showing a combination of affection and frustration. She doesn't judge Richard on a personal level for having an affair and seeking to remarry, perhaps because Anna herself has had affairs with married men. Anna does, however, try to make a reasonable argument about Richard's behavior having the potential to be destructive. She isn't trying to deny him personal happiness, but she wants him to take responsibility for the choices he is making. Richard seems to be genuinely unable to discern why he shouldn't just be allowed to do whatever he wants.

While Anna is so often progressive in her views, her perspective on Ivor and Ronnie shows a more bigoted side of her. She dislikes having become reliant on Ivor's help because it shifts the power balance between the two and makes her less able to exert authority over him. She was fine with Ivor living with her, but the more blatant and visible reminder of his sexuality makes her uneasy. Anna had mentioned potential homosexual relationships among the Mashopi Group and seemed indifferent, but she has also reacted with horror to the idea that someone might think she was a lesbian because of her closeness with Molly. Anna's behavior towards Ivor and Ronnie shows that there are certain things she is also closed-minded about.