Soho. Feb. 2016. 400p. ISBN 9781616956530. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616956547. F
In this novel of the woman behind the man, Romano-Lax (The Spanish Bow) takes a look at the lives of Dr. John Watson and his wife, Rosalie (Rar). A proponent of the psychological theory of behaviorism, Watson was a well-known author and researcher who believed that too much affection and coddling ruined children. As his research assistant, Rar worked with Watson on hundreds of experiments exploring fear and conditioning in infants. As his wife, she raised their two boys upon these tenets, allowing the babies to cry for hours. Physical and verbal affection were avoided, and the children were trained to be self-sufficient from an early age. While fascinating, this may prove to be a challenging read for some. Romano-Lax writes compellingly about science and the Jazz Age, but Rar only truly comes to life at the novel's conclusion. Her unerring devotion to a husband who philanders and marginalizes her can be difficult to understand. Most difficult for many, though, will be the descriptions of the research, which involved deliberately creating phobias in infants in a multitude of ways.
VERDICT Because of its subject matter, this is a novel that may work best for those interested in psychology and history. [See Prepub Alert, 8/31/15.]
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