The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook


Doris Lessing

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The Golden Notebook Characters

Anna Wulf

The protagonist of The Golden Notebook is a novelist and occasional activist in her early thirties, living in London after spending a portion of her life in colonial Africa. Anna’s successful first novel, Frontiers ofread analysis of Anna Wulf

Janet Wulf

Janet is Anna and Willi Rodde’s young daughter, who is born in 1947 and grows up during the course of Anna’s notebooks and Free Women. Unlike Anna, Janet is utterly happy and conventional… read analysis of Janet Wulf

Molly Jacobs

Molly is Anna’s closest (and perhaps only) friend, whom she sees as a sister or even, emotionally and psychologically speaking, lesbian partner. Whereas Anna is shy, small, and artistically talented, Molly is boisterous, imposing… read analysis of Molly Jacobs


Tommy is Molly and Richard’s son. He plays a central role in Free Women but only appears in passing, as a rather different character, in Anna’s notebooks. In Free Women, he… read analysis of Tommy

Richard Portmain

Richard is Molly’s ex-husband, Marion’s current husband, and Tommy’s father. He is an arrogant, impatient, power-hungry, and well-respected businessman who looks down on Anna and Molly for their left-wing political beliefs (even… read analysis of Richard Portmain
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In Free Women, Richard’s second wife, Marion, starts the book as a miserable, pathetic alcoholic, presumably driven to drink by Richard’s unabashed affairs and her relative confinement at home with her three children… read analysis of Marion

Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar

Mrs Marks is the psychoanalyst that both Anna and Molly visit and call “Mother Sugar” as a play on her “traditional, rooted, conservative” mindset. Anna initially seeks out psychoanalysis to address her “lack of feeling”… read analysis of Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar

Willi Rodde

Appearing in the black notebook, Anna’s boyfriend in Africa, Willi Rodde, is a German exile who is the same person as Max Wulf in the blue and red notebooks. Willi is an unemotional… read analysis of Willi Rodde

Paul Blackenhurst

In the black notebook, along with Jimmy and Ted, Paul Blackenhurst is one of the three (ex-)homosexual Oxford-educated airmen who join the socialist group with Anna and Willi Rodde. While Anna is… read analysis of Paul Blackenhurst

Jimmy McGrath

In the black notebook, Jimmy is one of the Oxford airmen, who was born to a middle-class Scottish family but adopts “an elaborately affected Oxford drawl.” Unlike Paul Blackenhurst and Ted Brown, who… read analysis of Jimmy McGrath

Ted Brown

In the black notebook, Ted Brown is “the most original” of the Oxford airmen who party at the Mashopi Hotel and “the only genuine socialist of the three,” as well as the only one… read analysis of Ted Brown


Maryrose is a young white woman and former model, born and raised in the British Cape Colony in present-day South Africa, and the only woman in the socialists’ group besides Anna. Most of the… read analysis of Maryrose

George Hounslow

In the black notebook, George Hounslow is an intense, humble, and romantic road repairman who has an affair with (among others) the Mashopi Hotel cook Jackson’s wife, Marie, while he is away… read analysis of George Hounslow


Michael is a married psychiatrist with whom Anna has a lengthy, heartbreaking affair during roughly the first half of the 1950s. He is a Jewish ex-communist—much of his family died in the Holocaust, and many… read analysis of Michael

Saul Green

Saul Green is a blacklisted American communist writer who moves into Anna’s flat and eventually starts an intense relationship with her. At first, he is brutish and inconsiderate; however, when he also proves an… read analysis of Saul Green


Nelson is an outspoken American communist entertainer, blacklisted from Hollywood during McCarthyism, who moves to England and has a brief affair with Anna in the last section of the blue notebook. She meets… read analysis of Nelson


Ella is Anna’s alter ego and the protagonist of her novel in the yellow notebook, The Shadow of the Third. Like Anna, Ella is single and dissatisfied, with a child from a… read analysis of Ella


Julia is Molly’s equivalent in Anna’s novel manuscript The Shadow of the Third, which appears in the yellow notebook. Like Molly, she is an unsuccessful, unmarried Jewish actress with communist leanings… read analysis of Julia

Max Wulf

Willi Rodde (in the black notebook) and George (in the yellow notebook) appears as Max Wulf in the blue notebook. Max is Anna’s ex-husband and Janet’s father. According to the blue notebook… read analysis of Max Wulf


In the yellow notebook, George is Ella’s ex-husband, as well as the equivalent of Max Wulf (in the blue notebook) and Willi Rodde (in the black notebook) for Anna. Ella never found… read analysis of George

Dr West

In the yellow notebook, Dr West writes the medical advice column at Women at Home magazine. Ella manages his overflow, responding to letters that are insufficiently “medical” for his taste. At the beginning of… read analysis of Dr West

Patricia Brent

In the yellow notebook, Patricia Brent is the conservative “editress” at the Women at Home magazine where Ella works. Brent worked at “one of the big smart woman’s magazines” but had to leave because… read analysis of Patricia Brent

Paul Tanner

A fictionalized version of Michael in the yellow notebook, Paul Tanner is a married psychiatrist who becomes Ella’s central love interest. They meet at a party at Dr West’s house and spend… read analysis of Paul Tanner

Ella’s Father

In the yellow notebook, Ella’s father is an aging, exceedingly introverted, ex-military man who lives in splendid isolation in Cornwall, passing his days reading philosophy and writing poetry. When Ella asks him about… read analysis of Ella’s Father

Robert Brun

In the yellow notebook, Robert Brun is the stereotypically pretentious, well-dressed, and adulterous French editor of the magazine Femme et Foyer (meaning Woman and Home, a near-translation of Ella’s magazine Women at Homeread analysis of Robert Brun

Cy Maitland

Cy Maitland is an American leucotomy surgeon who has an affair with Ella in the yellow notebook. He is energetic and boyish, attractive and proudly uncultured; Ella meets him on their rickety flight from… read analysis of Cy Maitland


In the red notebook, Jack is a historian of the Soviet communist movement and Anna’s closest confidant at the British Communist Party, who often helps mediate her meetings with Comrade John Butteread analysis of Jack


Ivor is a gay Welsh student who rents out the extra room in Anna’s flat. He is reclusive until after Tommy’s suicide attempt, when he becomes something of a surrogate father to Janetread analysis of Ivor


Ivor’s theatrical lover, Ronnie, moves into Anna’s flat without warning in the third section of Free Women. Anna hates his vanity and effeminacy, which she sees as a parody of women and… read analysis of Ronnie

James Schafter

James Schafter is a young American writer and friend of Anna’s who embraces and parodies the excesses of the literary world, befriending a critic who gave him a scathing review and publishing satirical fake… read analysis of James Schafter

De Silva

De Silva is an old friend of Molly’s, who moved from his native Ceylon to London and married a British woman before moving back home after failing in his journalism career. Later, he moves… read analysis of De Silva

Tom Mathlong

Tom Mathlong is a charismatic and powerful African revolutionary leader, ostensibly an old friend of Anna’s, who is referenced in passing by characters at various points in the book. When Marion befriends Tommy and… read analysis of Tom Mathlong

Charlie Themba

Charlie Themba is a revolutionary and friend of Mr Mathlong’s, who apparently went insane years into his activism and began accusing his allies of plotting against him. When Anna begins having her own mental… read analysis of Charlie Themba

Mrs Boothby

Mr Boothby’s caring and naïve but closed-minded wife. She does most of the work maintaining the Mashopi Hotel and initially develops a close relationship to the socialists before retaliating against them for their kindness… read analysis of Mrs Boothby

Jackson / The Cook

Jackson is the amiable and hardworking African cook at the Mashopi Hotel, whose budding friendship with Paul Blackenhurst during the black notebook draws Mrs Boothby’s ire. After Mrs Boothby catches Jackson helping the drunk… read analysis of Jackson / The Cook


Marie is Jackson’s wife, who lives with him and their children in their cottage on Mr Boothby and Mrs Boothby’s property. She has an affair and child with George Hounslow, which forms… read analysis of Marie

Comrade John Butte

A prominent leader in the British Communist Party and committed defender of the Soviet Union. Although he used to be an energetic and compassionate organizer, he has since become jaded and authoritarian, invariably ignoring Annaread analysis of Comrade John Butte

Stanley Lett

Stanley is Ted Brown’s “protégé,” a manipulative, lawbreaking young man who spends much of his time at the Mashopi Hotel sleeping with Mrs Lattimer and partying with Johnnie, his friend and “passport to… read analysis of Stanley Lett
Minor Characters
Milt, the dramatized version of Saul Green, also saves Anna from madness. Unlike her relationship with Saul, Anna and Milt are together for a mere five days before Milt realizes he must leave because he is incapable of combining sex and emotional attachment.
Ella’s Son
Ella’s son in the yellow notebook, Michael, is the equivalent of Janet, fictionalized as a boy and named after Anna’s real life ex-lover, Michael. Like the real Michael around Janet, Paul Tanner is uncomfortable around this Ella’s son Michael, and they both compete for Ella’s attention.
Mr Boothby
The proprietor and bartender at the Mashopi Hotel, Mr Boothby is an opportunistic alcoholic who disapproves of the socialists’ beliefs and manners but appreciates their generous spending.
Mrs Lattimer
Another frequent guest at the Mashopi Hotel, Mrs Lattimer is married to the violent Mr Lattimer and has an affair with the much younger Stanley Lett. Mrs Lattimer and Stanley are often seen “publicly playing the mother-and-son roles” before running off to bed.
Mr Lattimer
Mrs Lattimer’s abusive, alcoholic husband.
Comrade Bill
A hardened, suspicious, and dismissive bureaucrat in the Communist Party who is in charge of the Party’s capital-C “Culture” and skeptical of Anna’s writing. Nevertheless, he is an excellent organizer and at one point in the red notebook coordinates a canvassing campaign in his working-class neighborhood.
June Boothby
June is Mr Boothby and Mrs Boothby’s dull, sexually frustrated teenaged daughter, who helps them at the Mashopi Hotel. She marries an unnamed hotel guest and eventually moves across the country to live with him.
In the black notebook, Johnnie is a jazz pianist and friend of Stanley Lett’s who hangs out at the Mashopi Hotel. He seldom speaks and eventually starts an affair with a farmer’s wife.
Jane Bond
A friend of Molly’s who sleeps and falls hopelessly in love with Saul Green before and during his relationship with Anna.