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A lost novella from a feminist icon – over @ShinyNewBooks! #simonedebeauvoir

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I have a new review up on Shiny New Books today which I’d like to share with you, and it’s of a fascinating and moving novella which has recently surfaced from an author who’s been something of an idol of mine for much of my life – Simone de Beauvoir.

Beauvoir is of course probably best known for her “The Second Sex” and her series of memoirs, but I absolutely love her fiction too. “The Inseparables” was never published in Beauvoir’s lifetime, but it tells the story of a pivotal friendship in her life, one she also revisited in “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter”. The novella makes wonderful reading, and this edition is enhanced with some lovely additional material. Do pop over and have a look at my review – it’s here! 😀

The Joy of Library Sales! (and of course charity shops…)

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It’s been an odd sort of week at the Ramblings – mostly because I chose to spend the bulk of the half-term break being ill with some kind of flu-like virus. I was not amused, but at least I seem to be coming out of it – just in time to return to work!

I also got a *lot* of reading done before the illness really kicked in (reviews to folllow) and then hit a slump, which I am only just coming out of – I didn’t much like it when I was in it, though. And it was also a week in which no new books arrived – until today, that is…

I felt well enough to pop into town and return a library book; only to find that the library were having a little book sale. This is often an excuse for wild abandon and mass book buying, but I *was* restrained, picking up just two:

beauvoir zweig

I was most chuffed with the Stefan Zweig – I already have Buchmendel, but not the other story, and having been bowled over by “The Grand Budapest Hotel” recently, I feel ready to read more Zweig. I already own the Beauvoir, but this copy comes with extra material at the end. And it was 50p for two books, so there you go!

As for the charity shops, I wasn’t intending to visit them today, but I slipped into the British Heart Foundation as last week they’d been moving their bookshelves around and so I couldn’t browse. The newly tidied shelves had one volume that caught my eye:

mystery in white

This particular volume of the British Library Crime Classics has been highly rated by many bloggers I respect, so I was happy to part with my £2 for a copy in brilliant condition!

And last, but definitely not least, I thought I’d show my face in the Samaritans Book Cave – a place where I could happy pick up umpteen books – and came away with two wonderful Virago titles:

miniver robertson

I was particularly pleased with these because they’re original green covers and they’re in fabulous condition – the Samaritans peeps opined that they looked unread, and I’d agree; they’re just a little tanned on the pages with age, but the covers are lovely. The peeps were saying they hadn’t had many Viragos in lately (they know of my love of them!) and so it was an extra delight to find these. I’ve actually read “Mrs Miniver” in a modern cover version, so it was nice to get a green. And I own a different E. Arnot Robertson (an author who strongly divides Virago readers!) so was a great find.

So the week ends well, with some lovely new acquisitions to make up for a dullish, illish few days – off to do some reading! 🙂

Happy birthday Simone de Beauvoir!

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Simone De Beauvoir

Today is the birthday of Simone de Beauvoir who was born on 9th January 1908

Beauvoir is best known for her novels and her pioneering feminism, as well as her long partnership with Jean-Paul Sartre. They were both active exponents of the philosophy of existentialism, and Beauvoir’s pioneering book “The Second Sex” was enormously influential on the feminist movement.

simone and sartre

I first discovered her work in my late teens/early twenties when I first came to the women’s movement. This was in the late 1970s/early 1980s and “The Second Sex” was one of those seminal works you just had to read. But Beauvoir’s life was intriguing too, and I read all the volumes of her autobiography as well as her novels, including my favourite “The Blood of Others”. The latter had a very profound effect on me, and I still think it’s actually a better illustration of existentialist views than Sartre’s works!

It wasn’t till more recent years that I read her novel “The Mandarins”, a roman a clef which covers the life of the Paris intelligentsia during the Second World War. Several of the characters represent Beauvoir, Sartre and Albert Camus, and the events are based on real events in her life. The novel itself is wonderful and absorbing and highly recommended – in fact, I’d really like to find time to re-read it myself.

simone and nelson

Beauvoir’s life was not quite as straightforward as she might have made out in her autobiographies, and I came across a very illuminating biography of her by Deirdre Bair a few years ago. This was quite a revelation, as it covered in-depth her transatlantic affair with author Nelson Algren, prompting me to pick up a volume of her letters (which lurks on Mount TBR!) and the relationship also features in “The Mandarins”.

Simone de Beauvoir was a fascinating, inspiring woman whose life and work has had an ongoing influence on me over the years. Happy birthday Simone!

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