Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler

6 of 17
Dreaming for Freud
256 pages; Penguin
"What does woman want?"

Sigmund Freud reportedly posed this question after years of research into the topic, including innumerable hours spent probing the psyches of his female patients. Seventy-five years after his death, a pair of novels imagine what was going on in the minds of two of them: his youngest daughter, Anna, and "Dora," the subject of one of his most controversial studies.

In Sheila Kohler's Dreaming for Freud, Ida Bauer, a.k.a. Dora, is the 17-year-old heroine, a young woman whose deep unhappiness and sickly appearance, which likely stem from a neighbor's unwelcome sexual advances, prompt her parents to send her to Freud for psychoanalysis. In real life, Freud partially based his theories regarding women and "hysteria" on his work with Bauer, though he was never able to "cure" her, possibly because he believed her symptoms were the product of repressed sexual fantasies. For the purposes of the novel, Kohler focuses on her deep knowledge of Freud's work to revisit the relationship, redeem Dora and suggest that the great doctor may have been the one in denial.
— Leigh Haber