After Samuel Beckett and before Anais Nin, Deirdre Bair tackled the life of the woman Jean-Paul Sartre knew as "Castor" and "the Beaver" -- with the subject's cooperation, if not full agreement. De Beauvoir was a brilliant and creative woman who insisted on subsuming much of her intellect and talents to the man who thought himself painfully ugly, who seduced women right and left with his words and voice (and described them and their bodies in excruciating detail to his close woman friend and sometime lover), and depended on De Beauvoir to shield him from much of the dirty emotional work of life. This is a very personal biography; Bair is not a great source for literary or philosophical analysis of her subject's writings. At 700-plus pages, the book does go on and is somewhat repetitive, but it's quite readable and there are lots of memorable bits, from her passionate affair with Nelson Algren to the image of her imitating the voice of their beloved John Wayne for Sartre's amusement, and his manic practicing of yo-yo tricks.
This report prepared by David Loftus