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Steiner, J. (1986). ‘Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work’ by Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Pp. 515. £19.90.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 2(2):182-186.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 2(2):182-186

Book Reviews

‘Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work’ by Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Pp. 515. £19.90.

Review by:
John Steiner

Despite its defects this first full biography of Melanie Klein makes fascinating reading. We get a view of the early days of psychoanalysis in Europe through Klein's relationship with Ferenczi, Abraham, Jones and Freud. Then a detailed account of the controversy created in the British Psycho-Analytical Society by her arrival in England, and finally, a picture of Klein's personal history and character. Although professing to be an account of her world and her work, the descriptions of her writings are somewhat cursory and Mrs Grosskurth, who is a Canadian professor of English and has no professional knowledge of psychoanalysis, has I think rightly left this for a future biographer. Enough is given to enable the reader to follow the personal and political controversies which punctuate Melanie Klein's life and which became the author's central preoccupation.

It is in her account of Klein's character and personal history that Mrs Grosskurth comes closest to spoiling her biography. She actually seems to dislike her subject and although she clearly tries to be fair, she cannot resist filling in gaps in knowledge with speculations and interpretations which are usually critical. It must be said, however, that although these remarks irritate, and have no doubt hurt some of those who were close to Mrs Klein, they do not really spoil the story and sometimes at least the reader can make his own judgement from a letter or other material.

Mrs Grosskurth takes us through Klein's earliest years in Vienna where she was born the youngest of four children in 1882.

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