A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy
by Charlotte Greig
Despite the title, A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MODERN EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHY is not at all dull or difficult to read.
Susannah Jones tells her own story: she is brainy, impractical, impressionable and too young for her own good. But the book is about growing up, and she does it the hard way. Her love of paradox, her disdain for those who would deny the nobility of philosophy, her spontaneity and her good nature help her accomplish her maturity, but not without pain. She has a treasured idea of acceptable behaviour, and she develops the determination to cultivate her own philosophy without imitating others. She reads very intelligently and is fortunate in her Sussex University philosophy tutor (to whom she proposes marriage) but she is insecure and unsophisticated, and she actually tries to fall in love because she thinks she absolutely has to have a man in her life.
This book is neither about the redemptive power of love nor the curative qualities and superb courage of the human spirit. It is about the benefit to the human soul of betrayal, cruelty, greed and cunning in the hearts of one’s lovers. Want of affection in one’s nearest and dearest and the English weather (it pours with rain on almost every page) is also considered good, stimulating stuff.
Greig is ambivalent about religion, and prayers may not have been of much help to Susannah Jones in her hour of need, but Greig and the Holy Father both agree that grief is positively good for you. However, they would disagree violently on what to do about it.
Susannah finds her young women friends (so often mistrusted in novels) are understanding and helpful in the best possible way. Her tutor and her doctor and a young homosexual man are all kind to her in her distress. But circumstances limit all their efforts. ‘Don’t do anything silly, will you?’ says one. ‘No I won’t’ says Susannah, ‘I never felt less silly in my life’. She looks for the answer in her reading of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Kierkegaard.
Charlotte Greig has written an excellent first novel for which she deserves high praise and a loyal readership. She has experimented with several careers from bun-selling and go-go dancing to the BBC World Service, folk singing and song writing. She lives in Cardiff with the novelist John Williams and has two children.