She Came to Stay

by Simone de Beauvoir. World, $5.00.
Set in Paris just before the Second World War, this novel describes a distinctly odd triangular drama. The threesome consists of Pierre Labrousse, a successful actor producer; Françoise, his mistress and collaborator; and Xavière, an unbearably self-centered, jealous, temperamental young girl from Rouen, whom Frangoise and Pierre find so enchanting that they offer to support her in Paris and devote themselves to keeping her amused. Françoise is eventually shocked to discover that she is competing with Pierre for Xaviere’s affection, and that their protégée is ruining a long-standing relationship which she and Pierre had thought invulnerable. The reader who has dipped into existentialism will detect that its theories of psychology are being conscientiously put to work; but by and large they make the behavior of the protagonists seem exasperating rather than moving. For reasons I’m not quite clear about, I found the story far from dull; it kept me, throughout, in a state of lively irritation.