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"The Fig Eater" by Jody Shields

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Here we have a murder mystery with extra meaning - - Dora, the famous subject of a paper by Sigmund Freud, is killed and we have two investigations into her homicide. One is handled by the police inspector and the other is handled by his wife. The wife, Erszebet, is a Magyar woman with connections to gypsy traditions and superstition. As her husband struggles lurchingly through his investigation, Erszebet conducts her own, and actually finds the perpetrator. This murderer claims it was all an accident - and we know, there's no way. She literally chases him through the woods, and he falls off a cliff to his death.

This novel could definitely take a detailed analysis of what Erszebet could actually tell from the evidence she secrets from her husband, but really this is a book that indicts Freud, his methods and beliefs. There is a powerful old boys' network at work, and it results in one girl's death and another's disfigurement. The network's tendencies oppress women's desires and emotions at every turn. The author takes a measure of revenge by having the police inspector's wife solve the crime (although the inspector himself is a sympathetic character). Although this book reads as dully as a police report at times, it must have provoked quite a bit of thought in me, because besides the above points, I also have notes about studying: the modern fact-finding investigation as it tries to unmoor itself from its superstitious past; the imagery of snow covering virtually everything in the second half of the narrative; the symbols inherent in how men dress vs. how women dress (the veil vs. the bowler); and the contrast between the two investigations' chief assistants: Franz and Wally.

I recommend this work. I'm glad I read it (in Sept of '07) - the images and ideas have come back to me rather clearly.
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