This is a candid and gorgeous portrait of an intimate relationship between two young women at the height of stepping into the sophisticated and confusing emotional lives of adulthood. We follow Sylvie through the navigation of her ten years with her best friend and confidante Andrée. From understanding the ins and outs of the post-World War I period, to philosophizing on love both romantic and platonic, to trying to outsmart the adults’ expectations of them in a world that cared very little for the whims and adventures of young women except to control them into fitting into the complicated and patriarchal social roles of the era.
This was a gorgeous book, and it is unsurprising that Beauvoir based this on her own adolescence and childhood relationship with Zaza Lacoin. The purity and stark realism present in this piece showcase not only an adept portrait of quote a few wholly believably three-dimensional people, but Beauvoir’s ability to weave real events into such a beautifully structured, funny, independent, and tragic fiction. Beauvoir does it so effectively in such a short piece, and the relationship is beautifully captured in a shockingly slim volume that peers into what many of us not only have not experienced but what we never will. What really shocks me is that this was JUST published in 2021, closing in on a hundred years since she wrote it and almost fifty since her death as the copy suggests it was “too intimate to publish during her lifetime.” Honestly, a terrible crime as it is one of her best works and a gorgeous mirror of the fragility of our friendships, love affairs, and obligations to one another. A beautiful little masterpiece gorgeously translated by Sandra Smith.
Phil Sellens from East Sussex, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons