BEYOND THE MYTHS by Shelley Phillips


Mother-Daughter Relationships in Psychology, History, Literature, and Everyday Life
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 This hit parade of psychological and mythical views of a basic family bond teems with good intentions but fails to spark with originality or humanistic warmth. In a two-part format that first details the psychological components of the mother-daughter relationship and later offers a form of literary self-help called ``bibliotherapy,'' Phillips, director of the Foundation for Child and Youth Studies in Australia, aims for a practical book that will help those ``wanting to build good relationships.'' But it is too sober and familiar to touch readers seeking help. Book One, ``The Psychology of Mother-Daughter Relationships,'' is wide-ranging but a bit tired, with topics such as ``The Snow White Syndrome'' and ``Guilt and Super Mum''; the central villain is a patriarchal society. A discussion of feminist psychology (Freud, Chodorow, Gilligan, among others) equally lacks innovation. In addition, Phillips's sketchy case studies bring little life to the work; they are used mainly to illustrate a point, not to introduce someone for readers to learn from. (It is also possible that the long spray of Emmas, Beatrices, and Ediths discussing ``Mum'' may be too British for a country used to Mom and kids named Ashley and Tiffany.) In general, the subjects in Book Two, ``Retrieving Our Heritage,'' are fresher and more engagingly presented: matrilineal societies, matriarchies, analyses of the characters in Austen, Eliot, and Brontâ, among other subjects. An ambitious work that attempts a melding of psychological/literary studies and self-help psychology but ends up caught between the cracks, succeeding fully at neither.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1996
ISBN: 0-14-025186-3
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996