“Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaardner
My copy of “Sophie’s World” has been traveling with me across cities and states for a decade now, since some college friends were all abuzz with how great it was. I got a copy, but never got around to reading it. These friends were all Green Party members and amateur philosophers, mind you, and having read the book I see exactly why they liked it.
“Sophie’s World” is bestseller, and a rather remarkable novel — a history of philosophy told within the context of the story of a young girl discovering magic in the world around her. It’s not unlike “A Wrinkle in Time” or “Alice in Wonderland,” except for the addition of enough philosophical history that a reader could probably pass a college-level Introduction to Philosophy class just by reading the book and paying close attention.
Therein was my problem — I just couldn’t pay attention to the philosophy parts. What this says about me, I have no idea, but I found myself skimming large passages of this book and seeking out the bits with Sophie, her tutor Alberto, the dog Hermes, and the other real-world characters in the book. Gaardner lays on the philosophy quite heavily in the letters and booklets Sophie is given and reads to learn about the subject, and it tends to drag down the pace of the book. On the plus side, the scenes of Sophie trying to unravel the central and essential WTF mystery of the book are very interesting.
(This complicated book was apparently made into a Norwegian film, and I might have to check it out — because I can’t imagine how this book can be put onscreen and retain it’s “history of philosophy” angle at the same time.)
While glad I read it, this one’ll be going into the donate bin. Perhaps there is some young reader out there who will get their hands on it and launch themselves into a whole new world of questions and answers. I’m hoping.