The Inseperables by Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was one of the most important feminist writers of the last century. Her book The Second Sex, published in 1949, is widely viewed as starting the second wave of feminism and explored the treatment of women throughout history.
When I saw on #bookstagram that a long lost novel has been discovered it felt like a seismic literary event. We were lucky enough to get an advance proof from @vintagebooks which I will treasure. The Inseperables was published to acclaim this month and comes with a foreword from author #deborahlevy and afterword from the godchild that found the manuscript in a drawer.
“Selling your body in marriage must be worse than selling your body on the street”
The novel draws largely from Simone’s real life experience, her first tormented love and most treasured childhood friendship, torn apart by familial pressures and societal expectations of women. A deeply intimate, raw tale that is thinly disguised, Simone wrote of her friend Elisabeth in her memoirs but this book is about so much more than friendship.
Many academics and historians question how “an obedient Catholic schoolgirl cast off her rigid, patriarchal upbringing to become the high priestess of existential feminism” and for me this story is the answer. Following the friends throughout school and confronting with them their questions on organised religion, the state and a woman’s role is to see first hand how Simone developed into the powerful voice that changed the trajectory of feminism and gender.
“I loved Zaza with an intensity which could not be accounted for by any established set of rules and conventions,” Beauvoir recalled in her memoirs, almost thirty years after her friend’s death. A tragic coming of age story that is heartbreaking and compelling, the lyrical prose and vivid portrayal of life in France was mesmerising and I read it in one glorious sitting.
Even if you have not read any of her previous work, this as a stand-alone text is exquisite, masterful and will stay with me for a long time.