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Belle Vue is a novel of that day. It is the story of four people desperately pursuing their own special dreams.
Mrs. Bernays is seeking a happy denouement to a life of struggle and hardship and is looking to her son-in-law, Sigmund Freud, to help her achieve that goal, yet he seems more interested in pursuing research on what she considers wild-eyed ideas which have only resulted in ridicule from his medical colleagues. Martha Freud is pregnant with their sixth child. Unable to appreciate her husband's pioneering research and lacking self-confidence, she is desperate to save her marriage.
Sigmund Freud, gifted but prickly and emotionally inaccessible, is hell bent on achieving success. His ideas, however, are rejected by his peers, primarily because of their revolutionary nature, which includes a conviction that dreams have meaning and can serve as a window into the unconscious mind. Freud finds refuge for his battered self-esteem in the arms of his alluring and intellectually talented sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, a 20th Century "New Woman" who is as different from his Victorian wife as day is from night.
Yet Freud has a dilemma. He is caught between two powerful desires--his love for Minna and his quest for fame, and he does not know if he can have both.
Posted July 7, 2013
Belle vue is a novel that should appeal to those who are interested in the history of psychoanalysis, the biography of Sigmund Freud, life in Vienna at the end of the 19th century and those who like to read about intense family dramas. It was Freud who made us aware of the intricacies and difficulties of family dynamics and so it is intriguing and ironic to see how he negotiated these matters in his own life.
I usually read 4 or 5 books at the same time, but when I reached about page 150 of this novel, I set aside the other four books because I wanted to know what would happen. Belle Vue focuses on one very significant day in the lives of the main characters, but there are also flashbacks interspersed that fill in the context of Viennese mores of the time and the details of the personalities and situations of Freud and his family. There is a good deal of suspense and it seemed to me that some sort of explosion was inevitable. I speculated what it might be, but it turned out that I was off the mark, and I consider this to be the sign of an excellent and gripping story.
The portrayals of the main characters, especially of Freud and Minna, is subtle and rich. They lived and interacted for several years after the action of the novel that takes place in 1895. After finishing the book, I had a great deal to think about--what was there life like in those the subsequent decades they spent together. This novel really makes one wonder.