Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

I’ve heard much about Sophie’s World and how it’s simply amazing. I never bothered picking it up until I came across the book during 2017’s Big Bad Wolf, and it’s taken me slightly over a year to get around to it. And my verdict? Well…

Without giving away the twists and turns and plot lines in this book for those who have yet to read it, here’s what I think about it:

I like the concept. The idea of a philosophy book for the younger generation is brilliant and it was cool to re-discover the names of philosophers whom which, while I did not study philosophy specifically, I have come across through various classes or even arising out of knowledgeable conversations. It was like an interesting refresher course made relevant, and I daresay I even learned a new thing or two or three – like Hermes, a messenger to the gods in Greek mythology, is the root of the word hermetic, which means inaccessible. That totally makes sense when you think about it, right?

The story itself, however, was lacking. I mean, the storyline had so much potential, if only it was actually written better. I don’t know if it was due to something getting lost in translation, but everything – aside from the philosophy lessons – was oversimplified. For a book that tries to encourage its characters to question things and not jump to conclusions, the story aspect of the book sure does. And some scenarios just seem downright inappropriate, like Sophie (the 15-year-old) and Alberto’s (the middle-aged man aka philosopher’s) encounter with a fully naked man, Joanna and whatsisname engaging in sexual activity on the grass during Sophie’s party, and, well, just the idea of this grown-up man sending secret messages to a 15-year-old is paedophilic at best. Everything comes across absurd and perhaps it was purposefully so, except it just doesn’t work.

I thought that maybe I would enjoy this book if I had read it when I was younger – it’s for young adults after all. But I read complex books back then without being befuddled by complicating storylines or text. And I still read the occasional YA book by authors like Gaiman and Miéville and Pratchett, and they certainly don’t ‘simplify’ things for a younger audience… So, what’s Gaarder’s excuse?

I don’t doubt that some people will love this and enjoy it way more than I did. Perhaps if you’re the sort who likes easy reads, this will be up your alley.

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