The Diary of Jane Somers

Author: Doris Lessing
Title: The Diary of Jane Somers
Publish Date: 1984
Genre: Fiction
Page Length: 264 pages


The Diary of Jane Somers, written by esteemed author Doris Lessing and published in 1984, is a fictional novel that delves into the life and struggles of Jane Somers, a middle-aged woman battling societal expectations and personal growth. Set in London, the story is divided into three sections, each presenting a different phase in Jane’s life, allowing readers to witness her transformation and the complexities she faces.

Section One: Jane Somers

Section One introduces Jane Somers, a woman in her early fifties who has recently moved to London to escape her stifling life in provincial England. Living in a modest boarding house, Jane seeks employment and finds a job as a receptionist in a dental practice. Through her diary entries, we are introduced to Jane’s quiet and observant nature. She is dissatisfied with her job and feels undervalued by her employer. A chance encounter with a co-worker, Mary, reveals the harsh realities of the working-class life and the challenges faced by women in the workforce. Throughout this section, the themes of isolation, societal pressure, and female empowerment begin to emerge.

Section Two: If the Old Could…

In Section Two, Jane finds herself working as a housekeeper for a wealthy middle-aged couple, John and Ella, in their lavishly furnished home. John, a renowned writer, and Ella, a former actress, are seemingly living a life of luxury. However, as Jane becomes more familiar with their daily routine, she uncovers the hidden tensions and disillusionment within their marriage. Jane’s presence disrupts the dynamic between John and Ella, and she becomes a confidante for both, witnessing their dissatisfaction with their stationary lives. As Jane navigates being an observer to the downfall of their marriage, she reflects on her own desires and yearnings for change. The themes of personal fulfillment, marital discontent, and the facade of wealth are explored in this section.

Section Three: The Summer Before the Dark

In the final section, Jane has reached her sixties and is faced with the imminent reality of aging. She takes a summer holiday to a resort in Greece, the setting of her past youthful adventures. Here, Jane encounters a group of diverse individuals, mostly women, who are grappling with similar questions about aging and societal expectations. Amidst her interactions with these women, Jane confronts her fear of becoming obsolete and the pressure to conform to societal norms. The novel concludes with Jane’s realization that personal growth and self-acceptance must come from within, independent of societal expectations. The themes of aging, self-discovery, and the resilience of human spirit are prevalent in this concluding section.

Throughout The Diary of Jane Somers, Doris Lessing masterfully portrays the complexities of a woman’s journey through different stages of life, tackling societal norms, gender roles, and the inherent challenges faced by individuals seeking personal fulfillment. Lessing’s rich character development, paired with her profound exploration of universal themes, leaves readers with a thought-provoking narrative that encourages reflection and further analysis of one’s own journey through life.