Although Launer portrays an intelligent, intellectually creative woman, he fails to make a convincing case that her...

A forgotten psychoanalyst’s fevered life.

Tavistock Clinic senior staff member Launer (co-editor: Clinical Uncertainty in Primary Care, 2014, etc.) asserts that Sabina Spielrein (1885-1942) deserves more attention for her groundbreaking work: the first study of the internal logic of schizophrenic speech, her insights into children’s imaginations, and her use of Darwinian theory in her hypothesis of “the inseparable connection between death and sex.” Although Launer refrains from using technical terms, nonspecialist readers may weary of the minute detail with which he renders Spielrein’s life, which featured a severe mental breakdown, incoherent ravings, obsession with her therapist, Carl Jung, and much neurotic behavior. Granted access to newly discovered diaries and letters, the author admits that most of her papers, controlled by her estate, are unavailable to researchers. Nevertheless, he manages to fill out some mysteries of her stressful youth: Her father was alternately depressed or enraged; her mother, erratic, hysterical and overly anxious; both parents pressured her to excel academically. When her father beat her, she became sexually aroused; when her younger sister died, she fell apart. Tics, grimaces, psychosomatic symptoms and violent mood swings worsened. At 18, she was hospitalized in a mental asylum and diagnosed with hysteria; Jung was the admitting physician. Although Launer does not have evidence for the quality of Jung’s treatment, the result of their meeting was her consuming adoration, which he encouraged. “Her love for him,” Launer writes, “replaced her far more troubling obsessions….Her erotic experiences with him may have been her first experience of tender physical contact.” Later, she broke off the affair but wanted to remain friends; he cruelly spurned her. Freud became involved as a confidant of each, dismissing Spielrein when he was still friends with Jung but eager to win her over once he ended that relationship.

Although Launer portrays an intelligent, intellectually creative woman, he fails to make a convincing case that her significance transcends her time.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1468310580

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview