Susannah Jones is a philosophy student in the 70's with a complicated love life. Her long time boyfriend, Jason, is ten years older than her, owns his own antique business and a swanky apartment. But things aren't as good as they seem and after another night of being stood up, Susannah starts sleeping with a fellow student, Rob. She sneaks around behind Jason's back with Rob for several weeks not able to decide between the two of them until she finds out she is preggers. Then the plot goes Degrassi High (Will she be a Spike or an Erica?)
About halfway through A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig, I turned to my husband and said, "I don't think I'm going to finish this one." I persevered and got to the end though.
My first issue with this book was the characters. Susannah is so shallow. She only stays with Jason because she likes his apartment; she doesn't want to live in student housing. She spends a lot of time describing how long it takes her to get ready to go out and she's always concerned about how she looks to other people. Not to mention that she is sleeping with two guys but can't be bothered to remember to take her pill everyday! Okay, I get that that is the point of the book but it didn't endear me to her. Both of the guys are asshats (neither of them feels the need to wear a condom either). What does she see in either of them? Most of the other characters are stereotypical college people: the prof who chases his female students, the insensitive doctor, the scientists wear tweed, the artists wear black, the gay guy is a snappy dresser, etc.
The back of this book's description calls Girl's Guide a "romp" and funny. I find this misleading and confusing for the reader. I didn't find it funny at all. I'm sure any woman who finds herself in this situation of deciding between keeping her baby or having an abortion wouldn't either. In fact, I found parts of the book pretty grim. Something I didn't understand was how she talked to numerous people about her problem but not one mentions adoption as an option- not one! Why was this completely overlooked?
Just one more thing, the writing style at the beginning put me off. Susannah gives us the minutiae of her life: "I thought, I'll get one of those dishes where you can load up on potato salad at the counter." It gets better as she wakes up and grows up but it was an awkward beginning for me.
So, why did I read A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy? Once I got into it, I wanted to see how it would all play out. I also wanted to know where the philosophy would come in. She uses philosophy to solve her real world problem. That was actually cleverly done. At first, she looks to Nietzsche and uses his ideas to avoid making decisions. Then the cold reality of Heidegger hits and finally acceptance of her decisions with the advice of Kierkegaard.
Well, lots of other people thought this was a great book but I thought it was only okay. I never felt any real attachment to Susannah and it kept me from losing myself in the story. I can only tell you to read it for yourself and tell me what you think. It's a quick read at 270 pages.
Thanks to Other Press, LLC for the review copy.