Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Book Review... The Shaking Woman

The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt (2010)

Looking at the colourful child-like cover of this book; the first on my reading list for my Literature, Sexuality and the Body module, I was looking forward to a nice, easy pick-me-up-between-train-stops read.

On reading The Shaking Woman, I found that it was largely easy to read, but the frame of reference the book deals with (neurology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis) was a little out of my comfort zone.

After suffering a mysterious seizure while giving a speech at her dead Father's memorial service, Siri takes the reader on an informative and intriguing but rather disjointed tour on her quest to find the reason, via many strange experiences and well researched thoughts.

I found myself actually interested in the authors quest once I knew my hysteria from my neuroses and my psychobiological systems from my neurological ones (because I'm one of those people that use these terms every day, ahem). The sheer number of abnormal experiences she documents made me increasingly think of her as a little cuckoo; including shakes, migraines, divine lifting feelings, synesthesia, powerful dreams, seeing sparks, black holes and hallucinations, hearing voices and out-of-body experiences. However, her book is incredibly well written and refreshingly more detached and analytical than your average memoir.

Siri finally accepts that her unruly Other, The Shaking Woman that is subdued but not eradicated by the use of beta-blockers, is a very real part of herself, not the imposing illness or hijacking psyche she first felt.

I think we all have that mysterious Other within us; that voice that tells you to squish things that are just TOO cute, tempts you to jump from great heights and pull the legs of jinny-spinners. Well, maybe mine is just a little sick and twisted rather than hysterical. Each to their own ey.

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