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5.15.2009

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

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A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig
Contemporary Fiction, Philosophy, Chick-lit
Trade Paperback (OTHER PRESS, 288 pages, $14.95)
ISBN# 1590513177
Susannah’s official boyfriend, Jason, is the perfect foil for her student lifestyle. He is ten years older, an antiques dealer, and owns a stylish apartment that prevents her from having to live in the seedy digs on campus. This way, she can take her philosophy major very seriously and dabble in the social and sexual freedom of 1970s university life. But circumstances become more complicated than Susannah would like when she begins to have an affair with her tutorial partner, Rob. Soon she is dating two men, missing her lectures, exploring independence and feminism with her girlfriends, and finding herself in a particularly impossible dilemma: she becomes pregnant. Forced to look beyond her friends and lovers for support, she finds help and inspiration from the lessons of Kierkegaard and other European philosophers.
A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy is a delightfully insightful, bittersweet coming-of-age romp, in which love is far from platonic and the mind—body predicament a pressing reality. It even succeeds where many introductions to philosophy have failed, by effortlessly bringing to life the central tenets of the most important European philosophers of modern times.

Author Site:
www.charlottegreig.com


Chick-lit for the thinking woman. (4 stars)

Susannah Jones is working on her philosophy degree at a college in Sussex, circa the 1970's. She seems trapped between worlds, not wanting to dwell in the short-changed domiciles of her fellow students, nor be stifled in the identity robbing adult world of her boyfriend. But finding a balance between the two doesn't come easily. Living with her 10-years-older boyfriend provides a certain sense of financial safety but he seems to take her for granted not bothering to be home for days at a time, making all her decisions for her. As she begins to question the flaws in their relationship she finds a growing interest in her tutorial partner, Rob. Rob shares her interest in philosophy, music and more but lacks the maturity and stability she's grown accustomed to.

Falling into a sexual relationship with Rob only complicates things as she continues to question what it is that she feels about herself, the world and her current relationship. When Susannah finds herself pregnant she everything in her life changes. She can't keep both of the men in her life but she doesn't know which one is the father. Keeping the child could mean sacrificing her dreams but she she can't help but feel compelled to possibly keep the child. Like many young women this dilemna proves to be far too complicated to simply pick one option and be done with it. Turning to the philosophers she has been studying she hopes to find an answer that she can live with. But in the end the answers to her problems may require Susannah to give up the philosophical 'it doesn't have to be either or' attitude and make one of the hardest decisions of her young adulthood.

I have to say the philosophy side of this story really killed me as a reader. I've never been particularly interested in the stuff. That said, this is not unreadable for those who know little to nothing about the philosophers mentioned through-out. Beyond the obvious ties to the subject this is very much a coming-of-age tale. Susannah is naive to the point of being frustrating but one can't help but want to see her figure it all out. I think most of us have been that naive young woman trying to make a very adult decision at some point which makes her relatable and makes her endearing to the reader.

With very deep subject matter this is far from the light, fluffy chick-lit that is popular today. This is chick-lit for the thinking woman. While it's touted as being humorous, even comedic, I personally didn't find it very much so. I found it to be very melancholy throughout most of the story with small bits of lightness woven in to soften such a difficult dilemna. In the end Susannah's decision is completely her own, not guided by her philosphers, friends or societial expectations and it is this that makes A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy a truly read-worthy novel of finding one's own inner voice.

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