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Sayers, J. (2014). Marion Milner: The Life; by Emma Letley Routledge, London, 2013; 220 pp; £26.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(4):803-807.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(4):803-807

Marion Milner: The Life; by Emma Letley Routledge, London, 2013; 220 pp; £26.99

Review by:
Janet Sayers

In one of his many enigmatic writings the psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, praised psychoanalysis for its advance over classical psychology in starting with the formative effect of images on individual psychology. The formative effect of images on her own and her psychoanalytic patients' psychology was central to the achievement of Marion Milner as recounted by Emma Letley through focusing on the books Milner wrote during her nearly century long life.

Surprisingly, despite the confessional style of these books, Milner was reticent about her personal life. This must have made Letley's job as Milner's biographer difficult. She makes up for this with photos of Milner and her family, and with some factual details about them. They include Marion's birth on 1 February 1900; her having two older siblings, Winifred (who later trained as an architect) and Patrick (who later became a Nobel prize-winning nuclear physicist); an artistic mother, Caroline (nee Maynard); and a dreamy father, Arthur Blackett.

Arthur's severe nervous breakdown in 1911 seems to have put an end to his work in the Stock Exchange in London. It also seems to have constituted a turning point in Marion's life in deciding her to be clear about facts by keeping a nature diary in which, says Letley, “the first images are of a beautifully observed river bank, finely drawn primroses and a thrushes' nest” (p. 9).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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