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From The CriticsIn this complex biography, Gray suggests that the French philosopher, activist and feminist Simone Weil (1906-1943) was a fiercely intelligent woman who continually sacrificed her personal welfare for the sake of her ideals. Rejecting her Parisian family's affluent lifestyle in her teens, she starved her body and "binged" on intellectual pursuits. When studying, Weil made formidable reading lists for herself, spreading volumes by the likes of Aristotle and Nietzsche on the floor, reading for days with little sleep. A frail woman with crippled hands, she took backbreaking factory jobs because she believed that work was "the truest road to self-knowledge." Determined to place herself in dangerous and unhealthy situations whenever possible, she signed up for the militia that served on the front lines during the Spanish Civil War. As the result of her severe approach to life, Weil died at the age of thirty-four of tuberculosis and starvation. Gray balances the accounts of Weil's misadventures by tracing the evolution of her inspired writing career. In the final chapter, she summarizes Weil's theories on Christianity, politics and sexuality for those who are unfamiliar with her work. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her book At Home With the Marquis de Sade, Gray communicates her fascination with this enigmatic woman, but she treats the facts of Weil's life honestly, with both high esteem and skepticism.