From the back of the book : The Smart is a true drama of eighteenth century life with a mercurial, mysterious heroine. Caroline is a young Irish woman who runs off to marry a soldier, comes to London and slides into a glamorous life as high-class prostitute, a great risk-taker, possessing a mesmerising appeal.
This is also a history of the epoch in which Caroline's life takes place. She is involved in the most scandalous financial sting of the age and becomes notorious because of it. Her fellow conspirators (both men and identical twins) are sentenced to hang but Caroline walks free - the author is certain that this is because Caroline is exceptionally clever and knows how to use her allure with the all male jury.
It's a great book, fascinating from start to finish even although none of the names involved are remotely familiar in this day and age.
I have no idea why Sarah Bakewell chose such a ridiculously long title but there it is. This is actually a history of Existentialism.
This book is clear (and concise!) and very well written, split into chapters that tell of the development of Existentialism from it's beginnings and that which influenced it to the present day. Including those who influenced and helped to develop it. In so doing the book does provide an explanation of what Existentialism is which is easy to understand.
Along the way the author takes into account the first World War and the second World War and what both of those meant to the intellectuals and philosphers who practiced Existentialism. It's also very clear all throughout the text that the author is passionate about her subject.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is filled with facts but not dry and boring and it very much describes Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as people as well as philosophers and intellectuals and how they both were at the beating heart of this fascinating philosophy. It also describes how they both made a living.
I recommend this book, long title 'n all