MacLehose Press

Irisonbooks Review of Mesmerized

Following yesterday’s highlighting of the extract from Mesmerized on the BookOxygen site, here is a review of Alissa Walser’s beguiling novel from the IrisonBooks blog. This seems to be one of the more interesting lit blogs out there at the moment: the reviews are always thorough, well-written and fair, with a fair amount of interaction below the line. And best of all, there seems to be a strong penchant for fiction in translation.

A few years ago, I took a course called “Psychology of Religion”. During that course we discussed several psychological theories on religion or religious phenomena. We discussed early developers of psychology, including Freud, and one of his predecessors: Franz Anton Mesmer. Even though I am not a particular fan of Freud, I found the introductory information about Mesmer fascinating. Here a few of my interests came together: the mysterious power of “animal magnetism” (often understood in terms of charisma and hysteria later on, though Mesmer would call it decidedly scientific), the history of science, and gender.

Can you imagine my joy when I received a review copy of this historical fiction novel on this very topic? Mesmerized tells the story of Mesmer’s quest to be recognised by his medical colleagues. It does so by tracing his treatment of the blind musical prodigy Maria Parradis, the daughter of the Imperial Court Official. A successful treatment may give Mesmer the chance to enter the higher circles, while it might enable Maria to become an internationally famed pianist. Shifting between the perspectives of Mesmer and Maria, Mesmerized allows us to learn about the struggles of both to be recognised as people in their own right, about the appeal and rejection of animal magnetism as a valuable treatment for disorders, and the scandal that soon starts to circulate about Maria and Mesmer’s presumed relationship.

You are cordially invited to continue to the full review . . .

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