This is a fantastic read - perfect for anyone who has seen `A Dangerous Method' and wants to know more about Sabina Spielrein. It covers her affair with Jung and the fallout from this, but this was only one part of her life. The biggest eye-opener is to find out that the abuse she suffered wasn't just physical (by her father) or sexual (by her psychiatrist, Jung). She also suffered intellectual abuse - Launer explains how Jung and Freud mocked her theory about sex, and it looks like their followers have done so ever since. As well as telling her life story, John Launer devotes a lot of the book to showing how far ahead of her time Spielrein really was. Unlike Freud, she seems to have realized that sex isn't basically about pleasure but about reproduction. She was the first person to ever come up with the idea that the human mind evolved to put reproduction first and survival second.
It is particularly shocking to read the letters that Jung and Freud exchanged about her, quoted at length in this book. When Jung was trying to extricate himself from the affair, and Spielrein was also trying refer herself to Freud, both of the men plotted quite explicitly to trick her into thinking Freud didn't really understand what was going on. Spielrein comes over in the correspondence as an amazing woman - gutsy, decent and straightforward - while the two men try to run rings around her. In the end, Freud seems to have gained a lot of respect for her as a person, and Jung even apologized, after a fashion. Spielrein then went on to have an amazing career, working with people like Piaget and becoming one of the first psychoanalysts in Russia. This book shows how a lot of her original ideas have become standard in the world of evolutionary studies, and how some people in the therapy world are starting to think the same way. I had only heard her name in connection with Jung before, but it made me look at Sabina Spielrein with huge respect.