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A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy    by Charlotte Greig order for
Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy
by Charlotte Greig
Order:  USA  Can
Other Press, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

Susannah is in her second year at Sussex college in England, studying philosophy. She has a nearly perfect boyfriend, Jason - handsome, older, an antiques dealer with his own apartment, he seems to be the ideal catch. She enjoys her studies, and spends hours reading the likes of Nietzche and Heidegger, happily losing herself in their worlds of possibilities. Then one of her fellow classmates has a breakdown, leaving her alone in her tutorial with Rob, a handsome activist she hasn't really noticed before. Pushed together out of necessity, their in-class conversations lead to out-of-class coffee and an intense affair.

Torn between the safety of Jason and the excitement of Rob, Susannah turns to the words of the philosophers to help her figure out what to do next. Jason's inattention and lack of desire are frustrating, but Rob's youth and committment to his cause leave her feeling insecure. When she starts having horrible nightmares, both men insist she visit the doctor, where she is given life-changing news. Faced with an incredibly difficult decision, and without the support of either of her lovers, Susannah has to make a choice that will alter her life forever.

This was a fairly standard offering in the contemporary chick-lit genre - not outstanding, but an entertaining enough read. The author indicates several times that Susannah feels distant from everyone around her, and that distance comes through in the novel. It is difficult to ever really feel close to Susannah, or any of the main characters, as they suffer through the trials of young love.

A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy is set in the 1970s, and so takes advantage of the popular issues of the day, incorporating the burgeoning feminist movement, the socialist fervor on college campuses, and the legalization of abortion into the storyline with good effect. The author is able to write about this time period without making the novel feel dated, but instead immersing the reader in the thoughts and feelings of the tumultuous era. There is enough angst and turmoil to keep readers engaged in the story, though the rather abrupt ending could be dissatisfying for some.

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