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Fiction Psychological


by (author) Catherine Gildiner

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Nov 2005
Psychological, Crime, Psychological
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2005
    List Price

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During her decade in prison, Kate Fitzgerald has learned a few things: absorb yourself in your own world, never make eye contact with your fellow inmates, and the last person you can trust is your prison psychiatrist.

When Kate's psychiatrist, Dr. Gardonne, offers her a temporary leave and a job working for him on her favourite subject, the work of Sigmund Freud, she leaps at the chance. Things become complicated, and quickly, when Kate becomes an unlikely confidant to the director of the Freud academy. who is receiving death threats and attacking Dr. Gardonne's psychoanalytic organization.

Racing to uncover secrets and working with an unwelcome partner, a private detective, Kate is forced to consider that she may have been set up. But by who?

Catherine Gildiner gives readers a gripping detective story full of fast-paced twists--a remarkable intellectual thriller.

About the author

Contributor Notes

In 1999 Catherine Gildiner published her first book, a humorous memoir of her childhood called Too Close to the Falls. The story is told through the eyes of young Cathy McClure (Gildiner) who, at the age of four, is put to work assisting the delivery man who works for her father’s pharmacy, in order to curb what the local pediatrician considers her hyperactivity. Gildiner was prompted to write the book after a friend kept bugging her to write down all the crazy stories she had from her childhood — even though Gildiner thought her upbringing quite ordinary. After writing the first chapter she mailed it away to a publisher, not expecting much to come of her efforts, but it wasn’t long before she received an almost unbelievable reply: an advance cheque in the mail, with a Post-it Note saying "finish it." The memoir was published in Canada, the United States, England and Australia to wide acclaim, received award nominations and spent more than 70 weeks on Canadian bestseller lists. "I was surprised and amazed that people would be interested in what I call a happy, normal childhood,” Gildiner has commented, “but I’ve now come to see it’s not as normal as I thought."

By then Gildiner had already been working for a few years on the novel that would become Seduction. In fact, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin had been inhabiting her mind as characters for more than twenty-five years, ever since she worked on her Ph.D. thesis, which looked at Darwin’s influence on the father of psychoanalysis. As Gildiner explains in her note at the start of Seduction, her extensive study of the two men and their theories brought some "inconsistencies" to the surface — "not in the theories, but in the motivations behind them." From there, Gildiner began to build on and revise their personalities and histories until the two men existed for her as larger-than-life characters, destined — two decades later — for the page.

Gildiner was born in 1948 in Lewiston, New York, and came to Canada in 1970. After completing an M.A. and a Ph.D. in psychology, she established her private practice, and has worked as a clinical psychologist for more than twenty-five years. She also writes journalistic pieces for various newspapers and a monthly column for Chatelaine. Gildiner lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is on a masters rowing team that rows competitively worldwide. She is currently working on a sequel to Too Close to the Falls that will cover her life between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

Excerpt: Seduction (by (author) Catherine Gildiner)



Look into the depths of your own soul and learn first to know yourself, then you will understand why this illness was bound to come upon you and perhaps you will thenceforth avoid falling ill.
—Freud, One of the Difficulties of Psychoanalysis
It's really embarrassing to admit, but I forget why I killed my husband.

The vast majority of people do not kill their spouses. I’ve faced that I’m in an extreme minority. Since I’m locked in here anyway, I decided to try to figure out what I missed that everyone else seems to understand. In a former life I studied Darwin and examined how drives become instincts. It was great for watching birds make their nests and fly south, but it didn’t give me any clues as to why I killed my husband, or help me figure out how to conduct myself when, and if, I ever get out of this cinder-block cell. I tried reading religion, but it didn’t grab me. Philosophy was interesting, but it only made me wonder if I was here at all.

However in 1974, about eight years ago — I’ve been in this cooler surrounded by frozen tundra for nine years now — I ran across Freud. I started with volume one of his collected works, because I’m that kind of person, and read all twenty-three. (I’m that kind of person too.) Freud’s theory is a turnkey operation. You only have to buy into the unconscious and the rest falls into place. It’s like buying the model suite: you may have quibbles with the furnishings, but you have somewhere decent to live.

My greatest interest was early Freud, in all the discoveries he made before he was famous. In his letters he would explain that he’d seen patients all day and was then alone in his small study working through the night. Even when he went to sleep, he had dreams of planing wood — still honing the theory. Freud called this first decade of his most original discoveries, before he had any followers except for one loopy buddy named Wilhelm Fliess, his time of “splendid isolation.”

I was also alone, reading Freud day and night in my six-by-nine-foot cell. Maybe it was the similarity of our splendidly isolated circumstances, but I felt Freud was writing to me. I even answered his letters in a notebook that I kept hidden in my cell. When I got on a real roll in the middle of the night after ten straight hours, I felt we were co-authors.

They say prison is hell and I suppose it is in most conventional ways, though I look at it as a monastic opportunity where all distraction is mercifully wiped away. Not many people share a cell for nearly a decade with one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Of course, I never said as much to my prison psychiatrist — he would think it was delusional — but I feel doing time with Freud kept me sane.

Fifty percent of female prisoners have a grade nine or lower education; forty percent are illiterate; the majority were unemployed at the time of their crime. Even though Native people make up two percent of the population nationally, they are thirty-eight percent of the Canadian prison population. Two-thirds of female prisoners are single mothers. Eighty percent have histories of sexual or physical abuse. Less than one percent of women in prison are there for violent crimes. On the rare occasions when their crimes are violent, the aggression is almost always toward a spouse who has repeatedly abused them first.

Not one of these statistics applies to me. And I’ve always been a fan of stats, since numbers pretty well paint the picture.

The only thing I’ve had in common with my fellow prisoners, as my psychiatrist likes to remind me, is that we’ve all committed crimes. Somehow I don’t find that an icebreaker. Now Freud, on the other hand, was a biologist turned psychologist, like me. In fact he described himself as “Not a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker . . . I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador — an adventurer, if you want it translated — with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort.” These are traits I also have in spades. In terms of curiosity I’ve studied everything I could get my hands on since I was a kid. If you want to talk about daring, then let me remind you that I killed my husband. If these are the qualities that make a conquistador, then Freud was a great one and I, albeit pathological, am one as well. No wonder I bonded to him.

I was determined to read everything to find out why I was so unusual. Depending on what psychological assessment you read on me, you can substitute the word psychopathic or paranoid for unusual. I never got too riled up over those labels because, let’s face it, psychiatrists get paid to call you something.

Before prison, I liked science with all the bells and whistles — hypothesis testing, finding physical or numerical results, and measuring the difference. It’s called hard science when you have something hard or physical to measure. There’s a lot of comfort in measuring something you can see. Although Freud was a medical doctor, his greatest love was physiology and the biological research it entailed. When, at the age of forty, he didn’t get the academic research appointment he wanted, he qualified as a neurologist and set up a private practice. Back in the days before psychiatry was an official discipline, the psychotics wound up in insane asylums run by doctors who were called Alienists. As far as I can tell, they were fairly alienated from the patients. Their job was to make sure the doors were locked and the lunatics had straw in their cells. The neurotics of the nineteenth century had nowhere to go, and out of desperation wound up dragging their anxiety, hysteria and nervous tics into neurologists’ offices. Freud, one of the few neurologists who agreed to investigate hysteria, spent hour after hour seeing patients, mostly women, who had all kinds of symptoms with no apparent physical basis. Wanting to follow the rigours of the scientific tradition, Freud was in a quandary because he needed to study the mind in order to help his patients, but the hard sciences didn’t have any methodology for doing so. You can’t measure and quantify mental phenomena. Wanting to stick with the sciences, he had to invent his own science or method, which became known as psychoanalysis.

Editorial Reviews

“Very clever . . . definitely a cut above other thrillers.”
NOW (Toronto)

"There are enough twists, turns and identity shifts to keep you guessing... Like a dream, it makes you question what's real and imagined."

"Seduction is smart and entertaining — brainy fun for a cold winter's night."
The Globe and Mail

"Book-review clichés come to mind: "I couldn't put it down," "compulsively readable," etc. Seduction is a fast-paced modern novel filled with snappy dialogue, exotic settings and juicy intellectual plums, somewhat in the manner of The Da Vinci Code."
Montreal Gazette

"A stylish suspenseful romp through psychoanalytical academia."
The Bay Street Bull

Seduction is certainly a romp, and the author’s pleasure in writing it comes across, a rare enough literary event. Her devotion to the subject matter is apparent.”
National Post

“A fast-paced intellectual thriller . . . Dr Gildner’s insights about the desires that motivate us will keep you hooked.”

Seduction introduces crime fiction to literary mystery. . . . An addictive thriller that combines a crash course on Freudian theory with an old-fashioned detective story . . . Seduction is written with the kind of wit and intelligence reminiscent of another page-turner, The Da Vinci Code.
–The Hour (Montreal)

“A psychologically deep novel that combines two ex-cons, Anna Freud, and ambitious archivist and a zany catalogue of characters.”
Elle (Canada)

“A snappy pageturner of a debut.”
Ottawa Citizen

Praise for Too Close to the Falls:
“Memorably and skillfully told. . . Anyone who ever was, or has, a child considered different
in some way will enjoy this book.”
The Globe and Mail

“Richly detailed and absorbing, Too Close to the Falls has only one real fault. It ends too soon.”
Toronto Life

“A fascinating childhood is no guarantee of a fascinating memoir. It still takes a gifted writer to translate the past into a work of art, and Gildiner is a gifted writer.”
Toronto Star

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