I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages but somehow never quite got round to it until the end of last year. It has taken me about 5 weeks to read it, which is an unusually long time for me, because I didn’t find it relaxing evening reading. I found myself reading part of it and then putting it down and picking up something a bit easier for the rest of the evening.
It isn’t a difficult book and nor does it cover any difficult subject matter. I think two things made it difficult to digest in larger chunks; partly de Beauvoir’s view of herself in her early life and partly the adolescent angst of her late teenage/early 20s.
De Beauvoir’s view of herself as a child is as someone special. Her father encouraged this through his interest in her intellect and her mother through her interest in Simone’s piety. I think all children whose parents take an interest in them feel like this. Parents should be there to make you feel special and in this respect I feel de Beauvoir is making a big “look at me and how odd I was as a child” fuss about nothing. I found the early part of the book about her childhood dull. This is possibly because I expected a childhood out of the ordinary. Perhaps also because Le Grand Meaulnes is one of her favourite books at this time and I detest it!
Once de Beauvoir reached college age however the book became more interesting. This is about a person who is challenging herself intellectually and pushing against the boundaries imposed on her by convention and her family. I enjoyed finding out about the Sorbonne and the eclectic mix of friends she made there. What makes this section more difficult to read is that the translator challenges my vocabulary. I think I have a pretty good grasp of the English language and I understood most of the now arcaic words but I had to reach for my dictionary a couple of times! It is probably good for me to stretch myself a bit but not something I particularly want to do at 9.30 on an evening after a busy day at work.
To summarise, I’m pleased I finally got round to reading this book although I suspect it may be a few years before I read another of Simone de Beauvoir’s works. I generally find Jean-Paul Sartre more digestible.