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In this sensationalist account of the unconventional private and public lives of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Seymour-Jones (Painted Shadow) offers Sartre's "incestuous" relationship with his mother as a psychosexual backdrop to his adult life as Beauvoir's lover. While generally more sympathetic to Beauvoir, the author presents her with distaste as an exploitative manipulator, a "paedophile" with a predilection for "girl-on-girl action" who busied herself procuring young women for Sartre's "harem." Woven through these accounts of sexual exploits is the story of their intellectual development, the genesis of their writings and their deeply problematic relationship to Marxism and the Soviet Union. However, all too often, we are returned to cheap psychologizing ("murder was in Beavoir's heart") and prurient detail. With frequently unreferenced quotes and claims, the book offers little more than insinuation, eschewing clear evidence and demonstration in favor of conflating the lives of the writers with their fictional characters. Any value such a biography might have as a revisionist antidote to its subjects' own hagiographic tendencies is fatally undermined by the author's questionable use of source material, judgmental tone and preference for cheap effects. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.