98 Reasons for Being

98 Reasons for Being

Hanna is a German Jewish girl apparently suffering from 'nymphomania', which in 19th-century Germany means she has had a premarital relationship with a man. Assigned to treat her is Dr Heinrich Hoffman, whose efforts to get her to talk about her 'problem' meet with failure - until he starts to tell her about his other patients, like schizophrenic Robert, who hears voices (Flying Robert) and Lise, who cuts herself with scissors (Little Suck-a-thumb). As Hoffman opens up, gradually revealing the unhappiness in his own life, Hanna begins to speak about the love affair that led her to the asylum. But as her confidence grows it is Hoffman who begins to depend emotionally on her, to equate her pain with his grief at the absence of his troubled son, and to question what he has achieved in his life - the only thing that seems to have lasted is a children's book of silly rhymes and pictures - surely that can't count for anything?

Reviews

  • “... an unsettling, weirdly evocative novel, evidently superbly researched...the novel’s images of the dawn of modern psychiatry and its portrait of doctor and patient struggling together towards the light remain memorably poignant.”

    Jon Barnes, Times Literary Supplement, November 5th 2004

Clare Dudman

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Publication details:

98 Reasons for Being
Sceptre (2004)