Soul Murder: The Effects of Child Abuse and Deprivation, Leonard Shengold, M.D., 1989, Fawcett Columbine, New York, Paperback.

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

I found Soul Murder in an unlikely place -- on a discounted book table at a local Wal-Mart store. Like many psychoanalysts, Dr. Sheingold seems to have an anal fixation, but I'm sure he would protest and insist that those were obsessions he uncovered in his patients!

Profound, scholarly, and beautifully written, Soul Murder is largely devoid of psychoanalytic jargon and clinical standoffishness.

Dr. Shengold states that from the time of Freud onward we read little of actual child abuse in psychoanalytic writings. However, beginning in the 1960's there seemed to be the beginnings of an abandonment of both analytic theory and the euphemistic use of the term childhood seduction. Instead we notice the beginnings of the strong belief that "the child was abused."

In the second half of the book, anal drives and complexes have been largely left behind (pun intended!) as the author begins studying the effects of child abuse in the lives of a number of well-known authors as George Orwell (author of 1984), Charles Dickens, Anton Chekhov, and Rudyard Kipling. Interesting quotations from the various authors' works are included to show how the abuse they suffered as children influenced their writings. In that sense his writing reminded me of the works of Alice Miller.

Primal patients and therapists, as well as others interested in whether having false memories is possible, would enjoy reading the chapter entitled, "Did it Really Happen?" Jumping into the debate of whether childhood traumas are fantasies and whether Freud really believed that they happened, Shengold quotes Freud as believing in the reality of sexual abuse: ". . . so often they are not phantasies but real memories." But he writes that Freud nonetheless believed some cases of abuse were fantasies.

You will enjoy reading Soul Murder.