this is as open a book as a 1960 publication date would allow simone de beauvoir. in it is an insightful and honest exploration of self and society through the 1930s up to the liberation of france in 1944.
the prime of life covers an enormously influential and developmental period for beauvoir, and goes into great detail about her relationship with sartre, camus, and many other french intellectuals of the time, as well as her close relationships with less famous friends and family.
beauvoir documents the growth of her independence in thought and spirit, sharing intimate details about her misgivings and epiphanies. she is an admirable figure, one that courageously sets out on a path of the understanding of self and other.
she documents with detail what life was like during the german occupation of france during the second world war, and shares diary entries from the period. we learn about sartre’s enlistment to the military, his capture by the germans, and his subsequent escape. the reader gains an appreciation of the difficulties facing the intellectual left in france at that time period, and how they worked together.
i simply cannot say enough about this book. while i always have enjoyed learning about beauvoir’s life (largely through deidre bair’s biography), it was a friend that gave me the prime of life as a gift. this is one of the most remarkable books i’ve had pressed upon me, to which i am most grateful.
simone de beauvoir is a writer with clarity and humility that fully expresses the struggles of the individual during this socially difficult and intellectually explosive period in french history. whether it is due to the numerous anecdotes, the enchanting philosophizing, or the brazen honesty, this is one of those few books i recommend with insistence.