A Debut Novel That's Long on Male Philosophers but Short on Feminine Insight ; the Thursday Book

Article excerpt

A GIRL'S GUIDE TO MODERN EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHY

By Charlotte Greig

SERPENT'S TAIL, [pound]10.99

Charlotte Greig's first novel begins with its narrator, Suzie, screaming herself out of a dream. She is prone to nightmares, but untroubled by them in the reasoning light of day, when she attends seminars at Sussex University.

She describes herself as "a clueless philosophy student", and does seem short on insight into herself and the 1980s world she inhabits. She fails to notice that her live-in lover, Jason, is charmless, misogynistic and gay. She has an affair with a fellow- student, Rob, whose main interest in her is having sex, which his own girlfriend is denying him.

Suzie dismisses The Female Eunuch as "tabloid journalism", preferring Nietzsche's idea of "the free spirit" to Greer's vision of female emancipation. But when she falls pregnant (her notion of contraception being to carry her pills in her bag and take one every now and then), she is surprised that Jason is annoyed that he may not be the father, and Rob isn't keen to get married.

Unaware that her philosophy tutor is in the throes of some sort of psychotic breakdown, she offers her pregnant self to him. When he declines the role of father figure, she finally realises: "I was on my own. …