- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Viking USA (July 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067003424X
- ISBN-13: 978-0670034246
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 21.7 cm
- Shipping Weight: 454 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,036,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
98 Reasons For Being Hardcover – Jul 21 2005
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After the success of her stunning One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead (2004), Dudman turns her interest in biographical fiction to progressive nineteenth-century psychiatrist Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann, longtime superintendent of a Frankfurt insane asylum who is best remembered today as the author of Struwwelpeter, a set of cautionary tales for children published 160 years ago. In 1852, as he treats Hannah Meyer, a young Jewish woman diagnosed with nymphomania, Dr. Hoffmann uses methods from electrodes to leeches. When these methods fail, he persists (particularly because Hannah has captured his interest) by talking, revealing his own personal and professional problems and gradually uncovering Hannah's secrets and the story of the man she loves, as revealed in her mesmerizing italicized interior monologue. While Hoffmann and Hannah are primary, all of the patients and staff at the asylum are exceptionally well drawn, and through them Dudman explores the nature of madness, prejudice, and love; and at the end of some chapters, she adds pertinent tales from Struwwelpeter. A beautifully written, emotionally powerful biographical novel. Michele Leber
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Claire Dudman offers an original and offbeat perspective of life in a Frankfurt assylum in the 1850s.
A Jewish girl, Hannah Meyer, labelled as a nymphomaniac, is admitted to a Frankfurt insane assylum , in a deep and extremely debilitating state of melancholia. Dr Heinrich Hoffman, a Frankfurt physician who runs the sanatorium, and also the well known author of the book of children's poems known as Sturmwetpeter, undertakes to treat her, all treatments fail until Dr Hoffman patiently talks to her about his own life and patiently coaxes, slowly coaxes her out of her crippling melancholic state and teaches her to talk and respond again.
Her own inner thoughts and recounting of her own inner thoughts are recounted in italics, used in an intelligent and pertinent way.
Deeply in love with a German gentile who woos her and secretly marries her, and then cruelly spurns her, with strong anti-Semitic words, this incident has brought on her depressive state. The novel also focuses on the staff and other inmates of the asylum.
The novel also focuses on the staff and other inamtes of the assylum.
It is at once a window into 19th century Germany, the progressive thinking of Dr Hoffman, the inner world of the mentally ill and the anti-Semitism of the time.
An evocative novel despair and hope, love and cruelty, and ultimately the search for purpose and the reason for being, hence the name 98 reasons for being.
Basically, it is the story of a Jewish girl who is brought into a mental institution because she refuses to talk. Through her treatment, she encourages the doctor and other patients to open up and free themselves from their own demons. Of course, not all are saved and there are numerous characters that can be deemed as "not good". Still, the complexities of the characters makes them seem more real than the paper on which they are described.