THIS PLACE by Andrea Freud Loewenstein


Email this review


Loewenstein, a Freud descendant who has taught at a state prison for women in Massachusetts, captures some of the claustrophobic rages, frustrations, and elusive hopes of women-behind-bars here--even if this feverish novel is severely limited by its feminist/lesbian preachment. Alternating narratives follow the attempts of a handful of inmates to explore avenues of escapes from loneliness and hurt, through brief moments of communication, small rituals, and lesbian relationships; and caged, in a sense, as much as the women they attempt to help, are cool, blonde WASP therapist Ruth Foster (depressed, bored with lover Victor) and lonely art therapist Sonya Lehrman, a newcomer who's always ""performing"" in her own inner camera-eye and missing lover Mira. So Ruth, finding satisfaction only in work, struggles for vital exchanges with her clients--despite little encouragement from the callous guards and administrators, who refer to the inmates as ""bad girls."" Among the prisoners: blonde Candy, ""closed up"" like Ruth herself, soothing the wounds--exploitation, prostitution, a lost baby, an unasked-for hysterectomy--with love from sullen black dope-addict Billy;and dangerous psychotic Telecea, scorched by demon voices and shapes--who responds to Sonya's intensity and is soon manifesting herself in the art-room murals. (But is Sonya bringing out the beauty--or the ""weirdness""--of these women?) Eventually, Ruth, too, is drawn to the magnetism of Sonya's ""largeness and wildness"": she becomes obsessed, overtly seductive. But their inevitable night of sex is interrupted by a call in the night--telling of violence and death. Ruth, away from her therapist's desk, is less than convincing; Victor is a plastic prop; each case-history, however authentic, is used to make an over-obvious statement. But, if thin and stridently predictable as fiction/polemic, Loewenstein's novel does offer potent evocations of prison life--the taboos, the hierarchies, the humiliations and frenzied accommodations.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Pandora/Routledge & Kegan Paul