Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pat Shipman

Pat Shipman's books include To the Heart of the Nile, The Man Who Found the Missing Link, and Taking Wing, which won the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for science and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and named a New York Times Notable Book for 1998.

Her latest book is Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am re-reading Pat Barker's trilogy about World War I: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and Ghost Road. Not only is the writing beautiful and effective, but Barker's insights into the meaning of war for the soldier, the officer, and the ones left at home is brilliant. Besides, I can think of no two more fascinating people in history than W.H. Rivers, the psychologist and anthropologist, and his patient Siegfried Sassoon, the WWI poet, officer, and war protester. Their interaction in the first book as Rivers treats Sassoon (and others) for "mental illness," which in Sassoon's case is justifiable anguish over the horrors of an ill-defined war, is superb.

For those who do not know their WWI history, Sassoon was an serving officer in France and a decorated war hero when he came to believe the war was wrong, its aims badly defined, and he felt it would simply go on and on eating up young lives mercilessly. He wrote a bold letter to the London Times protesting the war and, to prevent his being court-martialed, was diagnosed as "shellshocked" and was sent to Craiglockhart in Scotland where shellshocked soldiers were treated. But of course, many of those involved in the war was shellshocked to some degree, even Rivers (because of his empathy for his patients) who served in Scotland as a psychologist.
Browse inside Femme Fatale, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Femme Fatale.

--Marshal Zeringue