Dreaming for Freud: A Novel

( 1 )

Overview

An award-winning author reimagines one of Freud’s most famous and controversial cases

Acclaimed for her spare prose and exceptional psychological insights in her novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Love Child, Sheila Kohler’s latest is inspired by Sigmund Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Dreaming for Freud paints a provocative and sensual portrait of one of history’s most famous patients.

In the fall of 1900, Dora’s father forces her ...

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Dreaming for Freud: A Novel

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Overview

An award-winning author reimagines one of Freud’s most famous and controversial cases

Acclaimed for her spare prose and exceptional psychological insights in her novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Love Child, Sheila Kohler’s latest is inspired by Sigmund Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Dreaming for Freud paints a provocative and sensual portrait of one of history’s most famous patients.

In the fall of 1900, Dora’s father forces her to begin treatment with the doctor. Visiting him daily, the seventeen-year-old girl lies on his ottoman and tells him frankly about her strange life, and above all about her father's desires as far as she is concerned. But Dora abruptly ends her treatment after only eleven weeks, just as Freud was convinced he was on the cusp of a major discovery. In Dreaming for Freud, Kohler explores what might have happened between the man who changed the face of psychotherapy and the beautiful young woman who gave him her dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
04/01/2014
To him she is a willful, rude, intellectually pretentious young girl; to her he is just another older man trying to control her life and make her obedient to her father's wishes, but together they somehow arrive at a pivotal moment for both of them. Despite the briefness of their relationship, each one knows that their time together has been the making of the other. In her latest novel Kohler (Becoming Jane Eyre; Cracks) reimagines one of Sigmund Freud's most famous cases involving a young patient named Dora, the basis for his book Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. The sensual prose re-creates bourgeois 1900s Vienna and surrounding mountain resorts with a seductive lushness that draws the reader in. The author's deftly perceptive characterizations, meanwhile—a nuance here, a reference there—create alternately sympathetic and frustrated reactions to both the patient and the doctor until the reader has also undergone a transformative experience. Some may find the flashes forward and backward in time to be distracting or confusing, but nothing breaks the dreamlike atmosphere so effectively created by the author. VERDICT Kohler's intelligent novel will be very much enjoyed by fans of Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman's Freud's Mistress, and those interested in Freud or psychoanalysis. [Coming in May from She Writes Press is Rebecca Coffey's Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story, a novel about Freud's daughter.—Ed.]—Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-03
Kohler's (Bay of Foxes, 2012, etc.) new novel fictionalizes the story of Dora, one of Freud's earliest and most memorable patients. In 1900, a wealthy industrialist brings his 18-year-old daughter to his own doctor—Sigmund Freud—for treatment of her "nervous" cough and "imaginary" leg and abdominal pains. Dora is crucial to Freud, who is still in the beginning stages of his career, not only for the fee he can command for her daily sessions, but because he hopes to find validation of his theories concerning the causes of hysteria. Reclining on his Persian-carpeted couch, gazing at his Greek and Roman antiquities, Dora (a pseudonym) is at first a reluctant analysand. She's there because she accused a family friend, Herr Z., of trying to molest her, and her family thinks she's lying. Soon she begins to view Freud as the only confidant who believes her stories. She tells him that her father has an invidious motive for defending Herr Z.: He is consorting with Frau Z. and is in effect willing to barter his daughter in return for Herr Z.'s cooperation. Freud appears sympathetic at first but later alienates Dora by implying that, far from feeling revulsion for Herr Z., she desires him. In retaliation, after dipping into Freud's critically reviled The Interpretation of Dreams, Dora invents two dreams which Freud, eager for such fodder, interprets as further indications of Dora's sexual obsessions. Thus, though hewing closely to the details of the Dora case study as written and published by Freud after the abrupt departure of his patient, the novel tests its veracity. Kohler handily exploits the therapeutic deadlock between the two principals to reveal character. Freud's insecurities, frustrations, self-absorption and longing—for a more prosperous existence, for a trip to Rome, for the return of his estranged friend Fliess—are sensitively evoked, as are Dora's internal conflicts. As both the patient's and the doctor's vulnerabilities are exposed, the very nature of a person's "story" is called into question.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143125198
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 5/28/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 634,907
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheila Kohler

Sheila Kohler was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of thirteen works of fiction, including the novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Cracks, which was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award made into a film starring Eva Green. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2014

    3.5 stars Reviewed by IvyD for Miss Ivy's Book Nook & Manic

    3.5 stars Reviewed by IvyD for Miss Ivy's Book Nook & Manic Readers
    DREAMING FOR FREUD is Sheila Kohler’s intimate conjecture of Dora (Freud’s best known patient) and Freud, their time together, influence on each other, and lives after their final meeting focusing mainly on Dora.




    DREAMING FOR FREUD has left me in two minds.  Freud and Dora came across as selfish, vain, manipulative, and users. 
     
    Freud wasn’t the least altruistic regarding his patients.  He was concerned mainly with the opportunity for academic writings they provided and, of course, financial remuneration.  Freud was primarily concerned with Freud.  I didn’t like him even a little bit.




    Dora is seeking attention and validation that she’s been terribly wronged by the adults in her life, and apologies.  She manipulates Freud, yanking his chain whenever possible.  




    Freud’s answer to everything is sex in some shape, form, or fashion.
      
    Ms. Kolhler’s writing kept me reading despite finding neither character the least appealing.  I had to know the where, how, and conclusion.  I confess the section titled December 1945, the last section, is my favorite part of the book.  So much life, living, and revelation are succinctly summarized while Dora lies on her death bed.  At the end, with her life behind her, I found Dora to be a rather tragic figure.  

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