The Guardian: "Yoder imagines a meeting that turns into a two-week analysis, pitting a doctor obsessed with repression against a writer whose private life appeared defined by it."
Date: Nov 12 2007
"What if" is historical fiction's juiciest question. In 1908, Henry James was working on his exhaustive New York Edition on the Sussex coast and Sigmund Freud was visiting England on business. Journalist and academic Yoder imagines a meeting that turns into a two-week analysis, pitting a doctor obsessed with repression against a writer whose private life appeared defined by it. He is not a perfect storyteller, and this short, entertaining novel is at times jarringly overwritten, with occasionally clunky plotting. Yoder's hotchpotch of letters and third-person narration paints James as an irascible, erudite master of obfuscation and Freud as a po-faced prober, who starts with pleasantries and ends with parents. But both emerge as surprisingly likable figures, and while Yoder avoids any grand revelations, there is a great deal of fun to be had. The father of psychoanalysis gets to race a bike downhill like a "circus daredevil", and James's (fictional) biographer, Horace Briscoe, who spends his time mediating between the two and falling in love, reveals that Edith Wharton had a fine figure, "especially in the bust".