Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness by Lisa Appignanesi - review by Frances Wilson

Frances Wilson

Vice Squad

Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness


Virago 434pp £20

In Trials of Passion, Lisa Appignanesi returns for the third time to the theme of women on the verge of nervous breakdowns. She first opened this Pandora’s box in Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present, an encyclopaedic examination of the ways in which doctors have understood women’s more extreme emotional states, from frenzies, possessions, manias, delusions and dramatic tics to anorexia, erotomania and multiple personality disorder. This was followed by All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion, in which Appignanesi dissected the domestication of the most unpredictable and high-risk emotion of all. How does a feeling as explosive as love operate in a place as controlled as the family unit? How much love is enough, how much is too much and how little is criminally little? 

Trials of Passion takes this line of thought for a walk on the wrong side of town: what happens when love breaks the law? How have medico-legal definitions of desire explained and contained cases of devotion gone awry? Once again, Appignanesi combines historical research with psychoanalytic theory, and her analysis

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