Susannah, a college co-ed studying philosophy at the University of Sussex in the 1970s, is living in a nice flat with her boyfriend Jason, an almost 30 antiques dealer. Although everything was fine at first and she enjoyed the luxury of not having to live in campus housing, things with Jason have been distant of late. Their sex life has all but dried up and it certainly doesn’t have any fire. She feels unappreciated. When Rob, a fellow philosophy student, asks her to go to a concert, she agrees. Eventually, Susannah and Rob end up in bed, although Susannah’s conscience is never quite okay with that arrangement. When violent nightmares finally require her to see the campus doctor, she learns that she has a real problem: She is pregnant. She isn’t sure who the father is. She doesn’t know if she wants to have the baby either way.
I read this novel incredibly fast. For something as weighty as philosophy and abortion, I would have anticipated this being a much slower read. The truth is that I couldn’t put it down after Susannah discovered that she was pregnant. I had to go on that journey with her. I wanted to. She is a smart woman, but as she learns first hand, she is a woman deeply connected to the natural world. The question is, what do you do with that? Susannah makes the brave choice to fully think through her circumstance and her options. She doesn’t blindly fall into step with any political opinion. Instead, she turns to the philosophers she is studying to help her make sense of who she is. Only then will she be able to fully embrace her ultimate decision. After all, her biggest mistake was not being as thoughtful and decisive about her entanglements with Jason and Rob before things got out of hand. She owed it to herself to do so now before piling on any more regrets.
A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy was a wonderful novel. From the first I was drawn in to Susannah’s world and her interest in philosophy. This novel delves deeper into its subject matter than a simple skim of the surface, but my inexperience with philosophy, especially Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard, was in no way an impediment to my readingexperience. In a way, Susannah and I were going through their works together. The way in which the philosophical texts were interwoven into the novel and Susannah’s life was compelling. Susannah takes responsibility for her mistakes and refuses to suffer the rhetoric of those who tidy abortion or parenting up for long. Instead, she turns to philosophy to provide unbiased guidance on a journey she wished she didn’t have to make, but one that would define the rest of her life.
Don’t let the chick lit-ish cover fool you. A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy is a novel that takes on one of the most loaded topics of our generation head on with honesty and integrity. As such, this was the first such novel I absolutely enjoyed reading. I loved Susannah and I embraced her in her struggles to do what was right and made sense. In her characters, Greig painted an authentic portrait of what happens when college students are forced to come to terms with the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. There are no easy answers to an unexpected pregnancy. This novel does not disrespect it readers by presenting one.
No question about it. A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy receives The Literate Housewife Review’s Guaranteed Good Book Award.
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