Future generations will call this the most important novel of the 20th century, or at least they should, for this is the book that expresses the major themes of the world in that century. What we now call gender issues (now there's a broad label!) occupy a major portion of the novel, but it is just as much a picture of the Fear of humanity during the Cold War times, when every day we were 30 minutes from doomsday. It is about racism and colonialism and the fading of empire; it is about the breakdown of society in the technological age; it is about single mothers; it is about mental states and breakdowns. It is about Communism, and have we not heard the 20th century called the Age of Communism? All this is not what makes this a great novel. Each time I've reread it, the more it seemed I could almost put my finger on something-a question of identity, or what it means to be human. "Breakdown" is a word appearing throughout the novel-by the end, it almost seems to mean "break through": break through the rhetoric, break through the categories. The Golden Notebook speaks to deep emotions-something there is that needs to shine through, to grow, to love and to be loved. This novel reached down to that. It is sometimes painful, sometimes provoking a fear/hate reaction, or a feeling of dislocation. This is the kind of book that you often have to slap down on the table, pace the room, and work off the tension that has built. Doris Lessing wrote once that she considered this novel something of a failure, for it only names the issues, exploring briefly, but not solving. I can see what she means-this is a novel that forces the reader to wrestle with themselves as much as the characters. This is why some people read the novel and yawn, and why some read the novel and are profoundly changed. One must be at a crossroads, unsettled. Read this book. Let it change you.