The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves

Siri Hustvedt

The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves

While speaking at a memorial event for her father, Siri Hustvedt suffered a violent seizure from the neck down. She managed to finish her talk and the paroxysms stopped, but not for good. Again and again she found herself a victim of the shudders. What had happened? Was it the onset of epilepsy? Was it a hysterical seizure or a bizarre form of panic attack? Hustvedt decides to chronicle her search for the shaking woman. Her exploration takes the reader on a journey into the offices of psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychoanalysts. It unearths stories and theories from the annals of medical history, contemporary brain research, as well as literature and philosophy. She discovers that although each discipline offers a distinct perspective on the problem, there is no ready solution. 3.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 224
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication March 2010
ISBN 978-0340998762
Publisher Sceptre
 

While speaking at a memorial event for her father, Siri Hustvedt suffered a violent seizure from the neck down. She managed to finish her talk and the paroxysms stopped, but not for good. Again and again she found herself a victim of the shudders. What had happened? Was it the onset of epilepsy? Was it a hysterical seizure or a bizarre form of panic attack? Hustvedt decides to chronicle her search for the shaking woman. Her exploration takes the reader on a journey into the offices of psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychoanalysts. It unearths stories and theories from the annals of medical history, contemporary brain research, as well as literature and philosophy. She discovers that although each discipline offers a distinct perspective on the problem, there is no ready solution.

Reviews

The Guardian

Hilary Mantel

Fastidious yet engaged, intimate yet detached, Hustvedt's exploration of mind and body embraces material that is inter­disciplinary, complex and contentious. Her clean intelligence is equal to the challenge. Her frame of reference is wide and she does not condescend to past explorers.

10/02/2010

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The Independent

Lisa Appignanesi

The Shaking Woman is an invigorating antidote to the emotional squelchiness which too often inhabits misery memoirs and illness narratives. Hustvedt is a calm traveller on the storm-tossed seas of the self. If her odyssey provides no ready answers and immediate cures, it deepens understanding.

10/02/2010

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The Observer

Rachel Cooke

The Shaking Woman is the product of voracious reading and deep thought, and you register its author's sanity in every sentence… Hustvedt combines the neediness of the patient – please, let me be cured! – with the scepticism of a judge.

10/02/2010

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The Daily Telegraph

Lorna Bradbury

Although Hustvedt is drawn to a psychoanalytic approach, and offers subtle readings of her dreams that lend this credence, what gives the book its originality is that she wavers on the edge of the various disciplines, preferring her own imaginative, deeply personal reflections to the potential certainty that might be offered by doctors. If, at times, she is painfully self-obsessed, she writes with such imagination that we somehow forgive the worst of her narcissism.

10/02/2010

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The Financial Times

Anouchka Grose

Hustvedt’s account of the diagnostic mess surrounding puzzling physical symptoms is very accessible. It’s also extremely fair-minded, especially regarding psychoanalysis. She repeatedly argues in Freud’s favour in the face of his supposed unfashionableness. (Is he really so unfashionable?) But if so, what we don’t hear is anything very revealing about her own relationship with her [family]... The advantage of taking oneself as a case study is that you have privileged access to the information. But it only works if you are prepared to get it out and take a look at it.

10/02/2010

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The Sunday Telegraph

Melanie McGrath

The extent of Hustvedt’s high-strung nerves – her migraines, hyper-empathy, prematurely aged neurology – may well confirm her membership of New York’s literary Brahmin class but on these stiffer-lipped, more cynical shores they can come over as the ever-so-slightly precious constructions of the narcissistic, artistic – perhaps that should be nartistic? – self. Particularly when they are so strangely unengaging.

10/02/2010

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The Times

Bee Wilson

...despite the promising setup, it is all ultimately unsatisfying. Readers who want to understand the workings of the brain will be better served by a scientist such as Steven Pinker. But if you want a good memoir, this isn’t really it, either. Just when Hustvedt starts to tell us something interesting about herself — and she doesn’t reveal much — she will veer off into another meditation on the ineffable unknowability of the self.

24/01/2010

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