One of my favourite reads of 2016 came just before it ended and by golly I think it might possibly be one of my favourite reads of all time. I fell in love with this autobiography’s witty style and lovable voice and when I wondered what to post this week I knew it just had to be this.
Simone de Beauvoir is often considered as one of the main voices for Second Wave Feminism and, if you’re a literary student like me you are probably all too aware of the hunk of text that is her The Second Sex. Had this not been a piece of compulsory reading for my Gender in Contemporary European Culture module, I don’t think I would have ever read this autobiography and that, quite honestly, would have been a shame. If the word Feminism is a) scaring you, or, b) making you wrinkle your nose, let me assure you, firstly it shouldn’t, and secondly, you do not need to identify or even really be bothered with Feminism to get the most out of this text. I mean it helps and you definitely get more out of it but it isn’t essential. Beauvoir’s witty and enjoyable tone makes this such a lovely read and it is more about experiences growing up than necessarily pushing an agenda.
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter tells the stories and moments from Simone de Beauvoir’s childhood up until she is about 21. What I think I particularly love about this text is the tone in which Beauvoir recounts her childhood memories because it is just so hilarious and self-deprecating. I love that it doesn’t necessarily paint a pretty picture of her but is much more like ‘let’s all appreciate how much of a horror and an embarrassment I was’.
One memory that particularly sticks out to me is a moment when she couldn’t have been much more than about 10 and her family went to stay with her cousins. Her mother warned her that her cousins didn’t say their prayers before bed and that they might tease her for saying hers, and young Simone is instantly filled with ideas of grandeur and importance. Beauvoir finishes the story by stating “I was sadly disappointed, for no one tried to martyr me.” These moments where she – for lack of a better term, absolutely rips herself to shreds – makes the autobiography so inviting. You can’t help but connect to the people she introduces you to nor help but share in the heartbreak in moment of despair and romantic reunion.
Overall, this autobiography has to be one of my favourites because I think it is such a special little book and I just connect to the young Simone so much. Definitely check it out, even if you’re a bit on the fence about it, because, honestly, I think you might fall in love instantly.