Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
First published as Sofies verden in Norwegian in Norway in 1991. English language translation by Paulette Miller published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1994.

One of my WorldReads from Norway

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller, SOPHIE'S WORLD sets out to draw teenagers into the world of Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel and all the great philosophers. A brilliantly original and fascinating story with many twists and turns, it raises profound questions about the meaning of life and the origin of the universe.

Dave picked up a copy of Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder in The Children's Society charity shop in Garstang (Great book selection there!). We both knew of its hype, but hadn't previously read it so were interested to see how good we thought the book really was. Sadly Dave gave up about a quarter of the way through so, discouraged, I had let it languish on the shelf until now.

Having finished reading, I now have mixed views on Sophie's World hence the three star rating. On one hand I was fascinated by the potted history of philosophy, most of which I didn't know anything about, and am hoping that at least some of what I read has lodged itself in my brain. There are a lot of names and dates to take in so I would probably need to re-read in short sections - like a textbook - in order to really start learning. However the history is written in such an accessible way that this is something I may well do over the next few months.

The fiction elements of Sophie's World were very disappointing though. I think I understand what Gaarder was trying to achieve with the inclusion of his fictional characters, but I just didn't find their conversations convincing. We are repeated told that Sophie is a fourteen year old girl, but she doesn't speak or act like one and I don't think Norwegian teenagers are so very different from British ones! Everyone appeared more like a plot device than a real person and I frequently found that irritating and distracting. For me, the fictional interludes were a respite from the increasingly intense philosophy, but I would have preferred Gaarder to have written a similarly accessible nonfiction history of philosophy instead. Then again, without the fictional hook Sophie's World probably wouldn't have hit the bestseller lists!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jostein Gaarder / Philosophy books / Books from Norway

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