Asa's Reviews > The Mandarins

The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
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's review
Feb 10, 2010

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bookshelves: 1001-books, female_author
Read in June, 2010

This is the story of a group of French left-wing intellectuals, starting when Paris is liberated in 1944, and told through two people: Henri, a writer and owner of an independent newspaper, and Anne, a psychoanalyst who is married to a friend of Henri's. I liked the parts of this book that dealt with the shifting friendships and politics of the group, a lot of whom were with the French Resistance, and how hard it is to go from the certainties of war to all the compromises and grey areas of a society at peace.

What I didn't like in the book were the women. The men were shown as having their work, their political beliefs, their friends and their romantic relationships, but all the women's important connections were with men. Some of them had their work, like Anne, but either it wasn't shown as being very important to them or it was portrayed in a negative light; they had their political beliefs but none of them were active in any of the political groups the men worked for; they had very few female friends, and most of those seemed to be for convenience or were very shallow; there were two mother/daughter pairs but those two were more adversarial than friendly. Perhaps this was a reflection of de Beauvoir, and she was the type of woman who prefers the company of men, but I found it annoying that none of the principal women seemed to have their own existence outside of the men in their lives.

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