Tell Me the Truth About Love by Susanna Abse reviewed

Tell Me the Truth About Love Book Cover Tell Me the Truth About Love
Susanna Abse
Ebury Publishing, Penguin Random House, Ebury Press
May 19, 2022

Love is what gives life meaning, but relationships also present us with the greatest emotional challenges of our lives.

Tell Me the Truth About Love takes us on a journey into one of the most fascinating realms there is: other people's relationships. Drawing on over 30 years of working closely with ordinary people who have encountered hurdles in their love lives, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and former chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council Susanna Abse takes us deep inside one of the most fascinating realms there is: other people's relationships.

Candid, captivating and full of wisdom, each chapter is inspired by a classic, timeless story. Prodigal sons return and rupture a fragile peace; Rapunzel yearns for companionship but remains trapped in her castle; Don Juan has a change of heart. Couples strive to navigate falling from Eden, poison apples, kissing frogs, wicked stepmothers, houses made of straw and strangers sleeping in their beds. The result is a book of solace, wisdom, and unparalleled insight into how, and why, we love.

Whether it's knowing when to call time versus when to persevere, or how to navigate our changing roles within a single relationship over the course of our lives, Tell Me the Truth About Love sheds new light on the human heart, and the strange ways it tries to both protect itself and embrace life's greatest mystery.

Tell Me the Truth About Love by Susanna Abse

Susanna Abse is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with over 30 years experience. Tell Me the Truth About Love are stories about people she has counselled over the years. They are not actually “true” but are stories that are representative of cases the author has seen over the years. She does state that they are about patterns of behaviour and problems she has seen many times. The stories are framed around classic folk tales such as Rapunzel, the return of the Prodigal Son, Dan Juan and the like. The background to the psychoanalytic approach here is Freud and Jung.

While the title suggests that this is a book about love it is really about relationships and human interactions. That actually includes the therapist herself who reflects on the impact her clients have on her. It is largely about couples therapy. The opening introduction sets out the outline of this book very nicely. I did enjoy the opening to each of the parts of this book. They are straightforward and succinct. Fragile Bonds, Betrayal and Flesh & Blood are the titles of the parts. There are then stories about therapy within those overall headings.

Ultimately I did find some of the stories interesting and some rather less so. Having read Tell Me the Truth About Love it is clear that I would probably not make a good therapist in this psychoanalytical sense. Susanna’s patience with some of her couples was remarkable and, while I can be empathetic, I am not as patient as her. In a number of the cases the sessions seemed to be very prolonged (and maybe that also affected my level of interest). I found her self analysis was frequently interesting. All in all I think this is possibly better for those with an interest or concern in therapy rather than a more “ordinary” reader.

I guess the purported connection with folk stories was unconvincing for me. It felt more like a concept than anything else. Over the years I have read other therapy books and some have held my attention more than this one did. That said I have no regrets about reading this and would suggest it would be something that others with an interest in the field generally might enjoy.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review