Friday, May 15, 2009

A Girl's Guide to Modern Philosophy

Charlotte Greig is a folk singer and music writer in the UK, but back in the 70s she studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in Great Britain. In her first novel, A Girl's Guide to Modern Philosophy, she uses that experience as a basis for the story of a girl with a dilemma. Her main character Susanna is involved with a neglectful older man. Thanks to her dissatisfaction with that relationship, she begins a relationship with another student, but her concerns about the new relationship prevent her from officially ending her earlier one. Then she finds out she is pregnant and her problems get worse.

This could be the start of an excruciating Lifetime movie. Instead, this is a lively novel that places the emphasis on characterization and story telling, rather than message hammering. Greig does a good job in creating her setting in particular the student lifestyle. Coming at the end of the 60s era and, in the more leftist UK, the student world here is one in opposition to society at large and Susanna's uncertainty of where she fits is a key part of the drama. The characters felt real and Susanna in particular felt like a young woman struggling to overcome her youth with intellectual tools she had developed.

While the philosophy studies initially provide mostly for establishing the character, they come to be at the center of the drama. As her situation becomes increasingly dire, she finds that her philosophy studies have become quite pertinent. She uses what she has learned to have a dialogue with herself about what she wants and what is best for her. While she nods to the political, Susanna is more interested in the individual and the personal. The treatment of sensitive issues is well handled.

I enjoyed the book and look forward to what Greig does next. I hope it takes advantage of her years in the music scene.

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