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The Book Club Review

Jul 15, 2022

The Inseparables is a novel that was never published in Simone de Beauvoir's lifetime. The story goes she showed it to Jean-Paul Sartre and he held his nose. It tells of the intense childhood friendship between Sylvie and Andrée, who were Beauvoir's fictional models for herself and her real-life friend Zaza Lacoin. The translation is by Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse, and the book comes with an introduction by Deborah Levy, and an afterword by Sylvie le bon de Beauvoir, plus a captivating selection of letters and photographs from the Beauvoir archive.

For this episode Kate was joined by Australian books podcaster Anna Baillie-Karas, in town taking short break from her own podcast Books on the Go. The perfect excuse, then, to read and discuss this powerful short book. But what did we make of it? Should you add it to your reading pile? And would it be a good one for book club? Listen in and find out.

Unusually for us this episode does contain spoilers, so if you don't know anything about Simone de Beauvoir and want to read this without any foreknowledge bookmark this show for later and come back to it when you've read the book.

We also have four book recommendations inspired by The Inseparables we think you will love.


Petronille by Amélie Northomb, translated by Amelia Anderson

At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell

Last Summer in the City by Gianfrarnco Calligarich, translated by Howard Curtis

Parisian Lives by Deidre Bair


Don't miss the episode page on our website for full shownotes, a transcript and comments forum where you can let us know your thoughts on the episode or recommend us a book. Comments there go straight to our inboxes and we will read and respond so do drop us a line, we love to hear from you.

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Listen to Lauren Elkin and Deborah Levy discuss The Inseparables for the London Review of Books

Listen to the Literary Friction podcast episode Kate mentioned, with Lauren Elkin