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Arnon, D. (1996). The Remarkable Beatrix Potter: Alexander Grinstein, M.D., International Universities Press, Madison, CT, 1995, 328 pp., $50.00.. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 24(3):570-571.
(1996). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 24(3):570-571
The Remarkable Beatrix Potter: Alexander Grinstein, M.D., International Universities Press, Madison, CT, 1995, 328 pp., $50.00.
Review by: Dan Arnon, M.D.
In The Remarkable Beatrix Potter, Dr. Grinstein describes the personal odyssey of a woman who was indeed “remarkable.” Born to a wealthy London family, she was raised by a series of governesses according to the ways of the time. She had few friends her age and was not permitted to attend school. Rather, she was educated by a series of tutors.
Her parents were remote and had little ability to demonstrate affection. Her mother especially was intrusive and domineering, meddling in her daughter's emotional life in a way that is difficult to imagine today. For example, she opposed Beatrix Potter's engagement to her publisher on the grounds that he was in “trade” and not of her social class.
Beatrix Potter was often in poor health, having endured a bout of rheumatic fever. In late adolescence she suffered an episode of depression that lasted through most of her twenties. Given this history of emotional impoverishment Beatrix Potter was able to grow into a woman of great personal accomplishment.
The story of her transformation from a sickly, timid young woman with a poor self-image and very low self-esteem is told by Dr. Grinstein through an analysis of her stories for children, beginning with Peter Rabbit, originally written as a letter to a sick child. Each story is given its own chapter in which it is first summarized for the reader unfamiliar with Beatrix Potter's work. These stories are then explicated by Dr. Grinstein who brings to his analysis a wealth of information about the events of the author's life as each story unfolds.
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