The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook Summary and Analysis of The Notebooks, Part 5


The narrative resumes with the black notebook, which is now filled with newspaper clippings documenting violence and turmoil in Africa. Anna has written one entry, dated September 1956. She describes a dream in which she is watching a movie being filmed about the people she knew at the Mashopi Hotel. She is frustrated and alarmed by the gaps between what she remembers and the film being created. Anna decides to stop writing in the notebook. The narrative then turns to the red notebook, also filled with newspaper clippings. In the clippings, Anna has marked every time the word "freedom" appears.

The entry in the red notebook in Anna's handwriting describes her meeting with Jimmy, whom she had first met in Africa. Jimmy tells her about his friendship with a man named Harry. Jimmy and Harry quarreled over political ideology, but Jimmy kept up to date on his life: Harry lived in London running a school for children with disabilities and developmental delays. He also researched the Russian Communist Party extensively in his free time, learning Russian, and aspiring to someday be invited to play a role in Russian leadership. One day, Jimmy runs into Harry by chance and casually invites him to join a delegation being sent to the Soviet Union, not realizing that Harry sees this as a planned and intentional summons. It is only after they have been in Russia for some time that Jimmy realizes Harry's hopes and crushes them by explaining that the invitation was spontaneous and carried no deeper meaning. Harry spends a long time boring the interpreter by offering his vision of history that he has compiled, but, eventually, he returns to England with nothing about his life changed. Anna ends the red notebook here.

The yellow notebook resumes with nineteen ideas and summaries of plots for possible novels and short stories. Most of them revolve around romantic relationships between men and women. The blue notebook continues without dates. Anna is not successful at finding a new lodger for her flat; she considers moving to a smaller flat, especially since Janet is going off to boarding school. Molly mentions an American she knows who is involved in Leftist politics and needs a place to stay, so Anna reluctantly agrees to rent the rooms to him.

When Saul Green moves in, Anna is struck by his ability to keenly observe and notice things about her life. She is unsure of whether she likes him, but she finds herself in a strange state of tension and agitation whenever he is around. After a few days, Anna realizes that she has fallen in love with him. They begin an affair, but he is inconsistent in his behavior towards her, and Anna suspects that he is seeing other women. They argue about politics, and Saul shifts from cold dismissal to neediness at different times. Nonetheless, Anna grows very attached to him and is horrified when she finds a diary in which he describes his relationships with other women and admits that he does not enjoy having sex with Anna.

Saul and Anna continue to live together in a tense and unhealthy state. She is often jealous and lashes out at him, but at times they are also happy together. Although she clings to the prospect of Janet's return, Anna finds herself more and more confused and less able to cling to reason. One day while shopping, she comes across a notebook with a golden cover and buys it. When she brings it home, Saul tries to take it, but she insists on keeping it for herself. Anna decides to set aside the other notebooks and write everything down in this one.


These sections show Anna wrestling with a sense of futility and stagnation. The black notebook ends with a vision of Anna seeing what she had tried to document and express (the lives and experiences of the Mashopi Group) be twisted and misrepresented. She stops writing because it seems like the tension between what she wanted to show to the world and what kept being represented has become too wide of a gulf to be crossed. The idea of film, with ties to Hollywood and a type of glamorous fiction disinterested in social and political reality, hints that Anna's vision of art and what it should be used for may no longer have a place in the modern world.

Likewise, the red notebook ends with an anecdote pointing towards futility and the foolishness of believing in something. Harry believed he had a purpose and would achieve something great, but he finally had his hopes crushed when he realized that life was more random than he'd thought. Perhaps most pitifully, he continues to cling to his dream of having an impact and articulating his vision. Harry's story hints at Anna's disillusionment: she used to think that both her art and her political beliefs meant something and that she had something to offer to the world. Now, she seems to resign herself that both are meaningless. The yellow notebook echoes this resignation since Anna can no longer move beyond sketches of plots. She can't even start writing a narrative because she lacks the will and sense of purpose to do so, so she just writes down the bare ideas and then moves on.

While the other three notebooks seem to focus on stagnation and giving up, the blue notebook documents one area where Anna's life does experience growth: her relationship with Saul Green. His last name hints that he might be a sort of notebook himself, or that their relationship will be one container within which Anna will attempt to explore something about herself. Even this relationship comes from a place where Anna feels stuck and frustrated: she is lonely without her daughter and she sees much less of Molly. Anna is also increasingly confronting her financial reality and realizing that if she cannot generate an income through writing, she will have to make significant changes to her life. The relationship with Saul emerges at a moment when Anna is desperate for some sort of stimulation and adventure.

This desperation might explain the destructive and cathartic nature of the relationship. Saul is also in an unstable and volatile place in his career, and he and Anna are chaotic influences on each other. She tries to nurture and care for him, but he pushes her further away from stability and structure. While Anna has prided herself on freedom and independence, she finds herself resenting those qualities when Saul displays them. She also feels shut out of his inner life, which is ironic because Anna tends to shut people out by never being fully honest with anyone. When Anna reads Saul's journal and realizes the truth of what he actually thinks about her, she is horrified and betrayed. At that moment, Anna parallels Tommy, who read her notebooks right before he tried to commit suicide. It's unclear whether these moments of confronting someone's secret inner world are destructive because of the act of snooping, or rather because of the act of hiding away and not truly expressing feelings. Anna, who constantly edits and crosses out her emotions and thoughts, doesn't know how to handle someone who writes down what he truly feels.