Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review: A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig

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

Published by Other Press, a subsidiary of Random House

Rating: 4 stars

The story takes place in the 1970s and Susannah is living with her boyfriend Jason, who also happens to be ten years older than her. Though she isn't completely convinced that Jason is "the one", Susannah appreciates the security that comes with an older man. After starting up a fling with her tutorial partner, Rob, Susannah finds herself confused and torn between two men and two different lifestyles. The fact that she has gotten herself pregnant also doesn't seem to be helping and she is forced to confront her problems and hopefully overcome them.

What was becomes evident almost immediately at the start of the book is how the reader is instantly transported into 1970s university life, so much so that I could easily envision the plot unfolding in that environment (even though I wasn't born yet during those years).

Since Susannah is a philosophy major, the narrative strives to incorporate modern philosophy into its plot development by way of teaching Susannah. I'm not convinced that the use of philosophy was successful in conveying the story's messages or imparting much wisdom for Susannah, but nonetheless it was interesting to read about it, even if it didn't add much to the story for me.

As a main character, Susannah leaves a lot to be desired at first, from her poor judgment and impulsive decisions to the way she justified every indiscretion. Although her behavior could be deemed 'realistic', I found it hard to identify with her profound lack of maturity and the way she handled herself. While I didn't find myself feeling particularly sympathetic towards Susannah in the beginning, I began warming up to her and truly sensed her character development when faced with a really difficult dilemma. I felt the need to read about what path she would take and how she would justify the choice to herself in the end became important to me.

Throughout the book, there are issues of infidelity and morality that come into play and more concretely the topic of abortion. I liked that the author never argued in favor of a particular viewpoint, but instead presented arguments for both and Susannah's ultimate decision didn't seem like it was intended to make a political or moral statement. The book's overall conclusion offers a positive message and also provides some interesting food for thought.

BIG THANKS to Tony of BlueDot Literary, LLC and Other Press for my review copy


Belle said...

Great review. The more I read about this book, the more I keep thinking I should add it to my list. I really love the title.

Anonymous said...

the title and cover are great and i love the idea that the book is set in the 1970s--i just finished another book set in the late 70s.

the philosophy angle sounds interesting and i'd like to find out how the author spins the abortion issue--such a hot-button one then and now. thanks for the review! :)

bermudaonion said...

I love books that make me think. Sounds great.

Bingo said...

I have heard lots about this book...good review....I really came by though to say....I have an award for you! Please come by BOOKIN' WITH BINGO when you get a chance to pick it up. It is enchanting! Thanks!

Library Cat said...

I have been seeing more and more about this book and hope that I get a copy - sounds interesting.

Anna said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I'll be reading it soon.

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