REVIEW: The Inseparables (★★★★)
Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘long lost’ novel
A Summary (No Spoilers)…
We follow the coming-of-age of Andree, as narrated by her best friend and admirer, Sylvie. Born into high class Parisian families, Andree and Sylvie first meet at school and become The Inseparables — only for society to slowly tear them apart.
The Inseparables is based on the real life friendship between Simone de Beauvoir and Zaza (Elisabeth Lacoin). Much like Andree in the novel, Zaza was passionate and smart, but buoyed by the expectations of society and her family. De Beauvoir felt haunted by the early death of Zaza at age 21, and she appears most notably in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter and The Inseparables.
Written in 1954, Published in 2021
The Inseparables was published posthumously in 2021, 35 years after the death of Simone de Beauvoir. I must say I am opposed to the posthumous publication of books — it feels unfair to the author, who may have felt unready for the book to hit shelves, or may not have wanted publication at all. The Inseparables seems to fall into the latter category —I had the sense that I was reading her private diary and I doubt de Beauvoir ever meant for it to be read by others.
The Inseparables is only a thinly veiled fiction. De Beauvoir’s real friendship with Zaza has only changed in names: Zaza becomes Andree and de Beauvoir becomes Sylvie. By writing the book, de Beauvoir comes to terms with what Zaza’s friendship meant to her, as well as her untimely death. The book seems written in a rush as in a purge or catharsis— The Inseparables spills onto the page like a rant told to make sense of the day’s events.
This is not to say that the book is poorly written. Simone de Beauvoir is a talented writer and this is very evident in The Inseparables. The writing is insightful, relevant, and intelligent. However, if given the chance, I think de Beauvoir would not have published it, or at least made a lot of changes to it.
This was my first venture into de Beauvoir’s fiction, and it left me itching for more. One to highly recommend, and one that showcases de Beauvoir’s brilliant writing (even in this unrevised state).
You’ll also love…
My Brilliant Friend // Elena Ferrante → both books are about beautiful friendships. While The Inseparables is short and focuses specifically on the friendship between Sylvie and Andree without much context, My Brilliant Friend is expansive and holistic.
Memoirs of A Dutiful Daughter // Simone De Beauvoir → the ‘non fiction version’ of The Inseparables, this book does a deep dive into de Beauvoir’s life and her real friendship with Zaza.
The Bell Jar // Sylvia Plath → both written by eminent female authors, both books beautifully capture parts of the female experience and womanhood. I was struck the confessional and raw power of both books.