In a way it would have made a lot more sense to have read this straight after the Jean-Paul Sartre Roads to Freedom trilogy but because of the variants of eBay bidding and post office delivery that was not possible. The reason why it makes such a good companion piece to the Sartre is because not only does it have much of the same existentialist style and it is set in France but also there is the backdrop of the war looming.
Just as in the Age of Reason, Mathieu the lead character has a moment when he has to decide if he will join the communist party this book starts with the very same internal debate going on in the characters wondering how to make something of their lives.
Bullet points from pages 7 – 42
* The story seems to start with a question being asked of a group of people about a decision having to be made that you sense could be quite a life and death one for those involved
* Then the narrative seems to swing back to an earlier time when a well to do man Jeans decides to embrace communism and reject the luxuries of his life and after completing a two year apprenticeship in his father type setting firm he announces that he will take nothing more from him
* He finds work at the bottom rung of the typesetting trade and starts to ingratiate himself with his fellow workers and convinces his artistic friend Jacques that he is doing something worthwhile enough for his friend to sign up to the party as well
* Then a character named Helene is introduced who works in a chocolate shop but dreams of escape and finds her boyfriend Paul too boring to inspire much and when she demands that he takes her along to a meal with a friend it turns out he is meeting Jean who by this time has rejected communism and is concentrating on traditional non-political trade unionism
Hopefully the action will pick up a bit tomorrow…