Kohler has an exceptional ability to imagine point-of-view in a realistic and enlightening way. Though this book is a novel, it is heavily researched and quite plausible.
In it, the reader is treated to the inner thoughts of “Dora”, one of Freud’s main subjects during his study on hysteria. Barely more than a teenage girl, she is sent to talk to Dr. Freud at the insistence of her father. The girl has been suffering from symptoms for a time and no other physician has been able to help. Indeed, she has been subjected to methods we would now consider tortuous. Reluctantly, she agrees and is surprised (and relieved) to find a soft-spoken man who wants to do nothing more than talk.
The doctor told her on the first visit that she could talk about anything she wanted to, and that he wished to hear her side of the story, so this time she decides to speak of her father rather than her intellectual prowess, which does not seem to have impressed him particularly. She wants the doctor to know what an exceptionally good, loving daughter she has been, until it was impossible to continue. ~Pg 54
The book is written in present tense, as well, making the characters all the more real, rather than historical figures.
Kohler also includes Freud’s own pathologies in the story. She imagines his frustrations and fears as he works with “Dora”, his worries about his own family, and his anger when “Dora” leaves the therapy. Throughout the story, neither is infallible — far from it. What makes it interesting is how they both muddle through, with false starts and dead ends until they believe they have arrived at some sort of answer.
Aside from being an enjoyable read, it is also a good introduction to Freud and his methods. Granted, delving into his own papers and research is a daunting task. Here, the technical terms and academic tone are stripped away. The only thing to do is watch the two attempt to sort the human mind.
Many thanks to Catherine at Penguin for the review copy.
28 May 2014