STARRED REVIEW
November 2016

The life of Emma Jung

By Catrine Clay
A biography of Emma Jung is by necessity also a biography of her husband, famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung. By placing the focus on Emma, however, Catrine Clay comes up with a fresh and compelling take on the story of Jung’s relationship with Freud and the early days of psychoanalysis.
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A biography of Emma Jung is by necessity also a biography of her husband, famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung. By placing the focus on Emma, however, Catrine Clay comes up with a fresh and compelling take on the story of Jung’s relationship with Freud and the early days of psychoanalysis.

Wealthy, educated Emma refused Carl when the penniless doctor first proposed, but with her mother’s encouragement, Carl asked and was accepted the second time around. In part, the attraction was intellectual: At the time, an educated woman was more likely to find mental satisfaction in her husband than through her own career. And Carl’s work as a resident doctor at Burghölzli, an asylum treating patients with a range of mental illnesses, was certainly fascinating. While Emma may have hoped to help Carl with his work, pregnancy and domestic cares soon preoccupied her. 

The young couple traveled to Vienna to meet Carl’s hero, the eminent Dr. Sigmund Freud, and the two men developed an intense attachment that was to shape the developing field of psychoanalysis until their infamous split a decade later. Here Emma also discovered Carl’s predisposition to infatuation with smart women. Throughout their marriage, Emma would have to grapple with the numerous frustrated, intelligent women who clustered around her husband, ultimately accepting one of them, Toni Wolff, into the household. 

Labyrinths does a fine job portraying the tightrope Emma walked to manage her husband’s health. Carl was haunted by a “second self,” an emanation from his unconscious that heard voices and saw visions. As much as Emma struggled with her husband’s flirtatiousness, she was also integral to his well-being, and they succeeded in building a long and solid marriage. Perhaps most happily, once her children were grown, Emma was able to write psychological essays, finally stepping into the limelight on her own.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Labyrinths

Labyrinths

By Catrine Clay
Harper
ISBN 9780062245120

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