Becoming Beauvoir: A Life

Bloomsbury Academic. Aug. 2019. 496p. ISBN 9781350047174. pap. $28; ISBN 9781350047198. PHIL
Scholar Kirkpatrick (religion, philosophy, & culture, King’s Coll. London) presents an impressively fresh personal and intellectual biography of French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86). Drawing on Beauvoir’s own published memoirs, her letters, and now diaries available as resources, Kirkpatrick reconstructs the philosopher’s life independent of her popularly viewed connection to Jean-Paul Sartre and free of uncertainty about where to draw the line between fact and fiction in her own self-accountings. From this varied documentation, as well as a few 21st-century accounts from those who knew Beauvoir as long ago as before World War II, Kirkpatrick weaves a chronological re-creation of her subject’s influence on others, and in turn, those who impacted her intellectual, ethical, and emotional development from childhood through her student years, affairs, and career as a writer and thinker.
VERDICT Marked by a clear narrative contextualizing the many key figures interacting with Beauvoir across her life, as well as the international events that also touched and affected her, this biography belongs in both academic and popular philosophy collections.
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