Rebecca West took her 1936 novel title from Pascal’s Pensées in which he says man is only a feeble reed, but a thinking reed, ennobled by knowing that he will die.
West’s Isabelle certainly knows she will die; that fact is quite possibly the only thing she does know.
The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West
© 1936, 1964. Compass Books ed., 1961. Paper, 431 pp. 1936 bestseller #8. My grade C-.
Isabelle prides herself on her thinking—she spends some time every day thinking—and on her rejection of impulse.
Isabelle decides to drop a lover who brings out her impulsive side and marry a thinker, but the cerebral guy she’d like to marry thinks she’s too emotional.
Isabelle rebounds and marries industrialist Marc Sallafranque the next week.
Marc is good in bed and good at making money, so Isabelle tolerates his deficiencies in the thinking department.
Eventually her toleration turns to love, and the book ends.
Isabelle’s thought processes are every bit as ridiculous as those of George Brush in Thornton Wilder’s Heaven’s My Destination, but West takes her ridiculous character seriously.
As one reviewer quoted on the back cover says, The Thinking Reed is “among the best novels in the short memory of modern man.”
The shorter your memory, the better this novel is.
©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni