A Dangerous Liaison, By Carole Seymour-Jones

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Described by John Huston as "ugly as a human being can be", Sartre was "a slovenly dresser who disliked washing". He still had no trouble attracting women, in particular a young aristocrat with beauty, spirit and intelligence.

Surprisingly, Simone de Beauvoir had the Stepfordian view that women needed "pure passivity ... to reach the climax of pleasure".

This absorbing account traces the trajectory of these twin rockets with energy and objectivity, though the reader wants to shake Beauvoir as she befriends Sartre's sequential lovers. "We liked her very much," she wrote of one.