Friday, 24 October 2014

Guises of Desire by Hilda Reilly

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels and Wolfsangel

What We Thought: Guises of Desire is a fictionalised account of the three-year illness of Bertha Pappenheim, known as the founding patient of psychoanalysis, mental illness treatment pioneered by the famous Dr. Sigmund Freud. “Anna O”, Bertha Pappenheim’s clinical pseudonym, was a patient of Dr. Josef Breuer, an associate of Freud’s, and one of the cases on which much of Freud's theory was based. Freud described his patient as cured of "hysteria" with his “talking-cure” method.

Through the author’s extensive research, Bertha’s Jewish upper-middle class of 19th century Vienna is excellently portrayed. A sensitive, well-educated child who spoke several languages, Bertha was deeply disturbed by the gender discrimination she saw in her milieu of society. When her father falls ill, Bertha begins to exhibit more and more alarming symptoms such as paralysis, aphasia, blackouts and hallucinations. Through his regular visits to her home, Dr. Josef Breuer uses new methods such as hypnotism and the “talking cure” to try and root out the cause of Bertha’s psychological problems. As Bertha comes and goes from sanatoriums over the following two years, the author narrates the progress of her illness in a fascinating and horrifying, but truly sympathetic manner that urges the reader onward, to discover what happened to this poor girl, in the end.

I found Guises of Desire an excellent and informative novel and would highly recommend it for readers interested in understanding the history of psychoanalysis.

You'll enjoy this if you like: medical stories based on fact

Avoid if you dislike: misogynist doctors, medical ignorance and male chauvinism

Ideal accompaniments: challah and chicken soup

Genre: Historical Fiction

Available from Amazon

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