Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

Sophie’s World seemed like an intriguing concept from the moment I glanced at the blurb, and although it took me waaaay longer than normal to finish it, I’m really glad I persevered. Essentially, the book is a cross between a YA novel and a philosophy textbook – interesting idea, right?

The story follows Sophie, a fifteen year old girl who one day receives a mysterious letter introducing her to the idea of philosophy. The letters continue to appear, asking her to think about questions of life, the universe and everything, and teaching her about philosophers from Plato and Socrates to Kant, Freud and Darwin. It’s basically Philosophy 101, embedded in this mystery novel about Sophie trying to discover her mystery teacher, and figure out why strange and impossible things keep happening.

As a reading experience, it was a little tough going for me – the textbook bits do read like a textbook rather than a story, and there are some really quite complex ideas crammed into not very many pages – but as I say, I’m glad I persevered because the ‘Aha’ moment came at about two thirds of the way through, when the story within  a story really got going. I learned a lot, too (which I guess is the point!) about the history and development of philosophy, and honestly, it made me think about what I believe. If you’ve done a PPE degree, this will be way too basic for you… but for everyone else, this was definitely an engaging, interesting and worthwhile read.



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