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Rhode, M. (2020). On Adolescence: Inside Stories by Margot Waddell. Published by Karnac, London, 2018; 282 pp, £32.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(1):150-153.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(1):150-153


On Adolescence: Inside Stories by Margot Waddell. Published by Karnac, London, 2018; 282 pp, £32.99 paperback

Review by:
Maria Rhode

This book is the fruit of Margot Waddell's 45 years of work in the Adolescent Department at the Tavistock Clinic. Its subtitle - Inside Stories - links back to her previous, widely admired book (Waddell, 2002) on emotional development over the course of the life cycle - Inside Lives - and the present volume shows all the many qualities of the previous one. Though it focuses on the specific challenges, conflicts and achievements of adolescence, these are seen in the context of the foundations laid during infancy and of factors that influence how far adulthood can become a time of personal creative development rather than meaningless conformity. Waddell's writing illuminates the adolescent process at the same time as the human condition.

Waddell came to psychoanalysis from a background in classics and in English literature, and readers familiar with her papers will know how successfully she has integrated these two strands in her writing. The first chapter in the present book begins with Freud's visit to the United States, in 1909, and an account of the ground-breaking work on adolescence of his host on that occasion, Stanley Hall. The rest of the chapter, like the rest of the book, is a brilliant interweaving of psychoanalytic theory and striking quotations from a wide range of literary sources. The second chapter, 'Internal worlds’, sets out central concepts from Waddell's main theoretical reference points - Klein, Meltzer and Bion - but always in relation to clinical or observational material.

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