Monday, September 04, 2006

Book Review -- Tete-a-Tete


Ah. The drama. The passion. The lies. The sex. That's right gals. Time for my review of Melrose Place! Er, I mean, time for my review of Tete-a-Tete by Hazel Rowley. Rowley's brand-new book is the biography of the decades-long relationship between Simone de Beauvoir (aka: The Beaver) and Jean-Paul Sartre. She starts as the two meet as students in 1929 and takes us through their deaths fifty years later. Through her detailed examination of the two -- and their ever-changing, wide circle of friends and lovers (and ex-friends and ex-lovers) -- we start to understand the evolution of the two brilliant writers and philosophers and the existential movement that swept the world in the mid 20th century. Even a person who had never heard of the two would be drawn into their unconventional and riveting story.

As an English geek and women's studies student, I've studied a wee bit of J-P S and S de B, but Rowley's in-depth, careful analysis reveals what was beneath the surface of their writings and teachings. We see the impact of the world on their philosophies and the impact of their philosophies on the world. Their non-traditional, sometimes rocky, but oddly stable relationship might seem odd to many of us, but for them it worked and it endured. Yes, it's easy to get irritated at the deception and womanizing of Jean Paul Sartre (okay, he was a genius, but what is up with some of these women?); I found myself at times sympathizing with Simone de Beauvoir's struggles to keep her most-important love going.

Rowley's research is extensive and doesn't glorify or condemn either writer. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the countless names and places and people that the two encounter, but overall it's a fairly readable and gripping biography.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Vanessa said...

I concur! Can't wait to start reading book four. This book club was such a great idea Theresa! Although it does seem to have dwindled down to a club of two. But I'm still having fun with it despite the small size of our group.

6:46 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

Oh, that's fine. It gives me an excuse to read books I might not have read otherwise!

10:47 AM  

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