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#172 ~ A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy

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A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig

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.

sc3b8ren-kirkegaard-statueA 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 NietzscheHeidegger, 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.

lh-seal-of-approval

*******

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15 Comments

  • At 2009.06.12 21:20, rhapsodyinbooks said:

    Sounds like a great book. And your review fills me with questions that you couldn’t answer or they would be spoilers! Nice review!

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    • At 2009.06.12 21:23, Kathy said:

      When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be too “deep” for me since I know next to nothing about philosophy and philosophers. I’m glad to see that’s not the case. Your review is fantastic – it’s made me want to read the book.

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      • At 2009.06.12 22:52, gwendolyn b. said:

        Great review! Before this, I didn’t really grasp what the book was all about. I think I’d enjoy it.

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        • At 2009.06.13 00:25, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

          I just finished this tonight and I have to say, I was sort of ‘eh’ about the first half of the book, but I thought it got quite good after Susannah learned that she was pregnant.

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          • At 2009.06.13 06:22, Sandy said:

            It couldn’t have been an easy task to write about such heavy issues and make it an enjoyable read. But it is excellent that the author has. This is a pretty common scenario and can only help to enlighten those that are going through it.

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            • At 2009.06.13 09:33, Amy Reads Good Books said:

              Thanks for the review. I was about to be really offended by the title. . .glad to know that it’s chic lit and not some watered down version of philosophy “just for girls.” 🙂

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              • […] The Literate Housewife recommends a new chic lit novel, A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy.  I think that I’ll add this one to my pile. […]

                • At 2009.06.13 10:35, Chris@bookarama said:

                  I’m glad someone liked it, cause I just couldn’t.

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                  • At 2009.06.13 15:42, Literate Housewife said:

                    Rhapsody ~ It was so hard to write this review without including spoilers. I don’t believe that anything I wrote gives anything away that the summary does. I am looking forward to what you think when you read it.

                    Kathy ~ I don’t think you would have any trouble at all with this novel. I didn’t find it overwhelming at all.

                    Gwendolyn ~ I hope you do read it. I would like to know what you think.

                    Jen ~ I agree that the book really picked up when she found out she was pregnant. I enjoyed what came before it, though. It framed up Susannah and the situation pretty well. I will be interested in your review down the road. Less than two weeks now to wait for the little one at the most. Whoo Hoo!

                    Sandy ~ It is an all too common scenario that I was lucky to have avoided myself, but a couple of friends of mine weren’t so lucky. Greig certainly wrote the part of the friend of the unlucky one, too. I could so see myself in that character.

                    Amy ~ LOL! I hadn’t even thought to be offended by the title. Sure, these works were all written by men, but it was surprising how gender neutral some of the things they wrote were, especially Kierkegaard. Thanks for the shout out, too!!!!

                    Chris ~ I’m sorry you didn’t like this novel. Was it the subject matter or something else? I’ve read other reviews where people got irritated with characters. I’m really curious to know what you think.

                    • At 2009.06.13 21:53, softdrink said:

                      I just searched my library’s online catalogue for this book and it came back with “Did you mean ah girl’s guide to modern european philosophy?”

                      Umm, no. I didn’t. Although they still don’t have it by that title either. So not impressed (again) with my library.

                      Despite my library’s attempt to thwart me, I do plan to read this one.

                      • At 2009.06.13 22:34, Chris@bookarama said:

                        It was mostly the main character. I find it hard to read a book where I don’t like the main character. She irritated me. And the writing bothered me too. But I said in my review that I’m sure not everyone would feel the way I did. I seem to have found the reviews to be 50/50. Either you love it or hate it.

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                        • […] #172 ~ A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy (literatehousewife.com) […]

                          • At 2009.06.26 12:40, Lana said:

                            I really enjoyed the fact that there were no easy answers to Susannah’s dilemma as well. I thought this book hit just the right balance between deep and light – it’s both easy and meaningful to read.

                            I really enjoyed your review, so I’ve linked to you here.
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                            • […] of studying philosophy; we don’t need to be lured in with a cornball title.  When I read The Literate Housewife’s review and discovered that this was a novel, I was immediately reassured.  It’s interesting how I […]

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