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Lions at Lamb House by Edwin M. Yoder Jr

March 4, 2010

Well, it seems like I took a little break from the blog for a while. I blame it on the Olympics, and on sort of loosing my writing groove. But now I’m back, and the good news is that I have so much to write about! So much that I had to make a little list of everything so that I don’t forget. So let’s get right to it, then. First up, I have a rave review to share with you.

Lions at Lamb House is a lovely historical fiction book that imagines a meeting between two legendary great minds: Henry James and Sigmund Freud. When I first bought this book, I mistakenly thought that William James would be part of the party, but I was wrong. While the elder brother plays a small role, he doesn’t actually appear in the book. Even though I was at first disappointed about that, it soon ceased to matter because this book is so delightful in every respect.

The story is told in four parts. The book opens with Freud’s arrival in Rye, the town in England where Henry James was living. In the first section, we see how James and Freud interact and how the two eventually decide that Freud should psychoanalyze James. In the second section, which takes place 30 years later, during the Second World War, James’s former protege is corresponding with Freud’s daughter about the possible discovery of Freud’s secret notes on the James analysis. The third and fourth parts return to the meeting at Bly and the war, in that order. It’s really a rather ingenious way to tell the story, since it allows us to see how Freud thought about his time with James when reconsidering it much later in his life. Mixed through it all is a funny little love story between James’s protege and a young woman in Rye.

Although I loved this book, I must admit that I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I think that readers would most enjoy this book if they were familiar with the works of both James and Freud. Also, I would recommend that potential readers feel comfortable with some of the basics of Freud’s early psychological work–and feel comfortable reading about people discussing these theories! It’s not as if the work is vulgar, by any stretch of the imagination, but it does discuss exactly what Freud talks about in his books. That being said, if you are a James and/or Freud fan, you will certainly love this book as much as I did.

3 comments

  1. I read a different novel that featured James a few years ago, The Master by Colm Toibin and really loved it. :) I’m not a Freud fan, and I’m especially not a fan of his psych theories, so do you think I’d enjoy this anyway or not?


    • Hmm, I guess it’s a little hard to say. I think you really just have to be familiar with the Freud theories. If you like James a lot, then I would recommend trying this book out. In fact, you may even like the outcome!!


  2. Forgot to mention that I’m a fan of Henry himself! :D I have The Bostonians out from the library right now; I’ll be starting it very soon, and I can’t wait.



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