AN­DROMEDA RO­MANO- LAX

PS Magazine - - BOOKS FICTION -

Be­have is a novel based on the real life of the lit­tle rec­og­nized and rel­a­tively un­known Ros­alie Rayner. Ac­cepted to Johns Hop­kins grad­u­ate school in 1919, Ms. Rayner was the stu­dent and part­ner of the well known early 20th- cen­tury psy­chol­ogy re­searcher,

James Wat­son. Dr. Wat­son is fa­mous for his con­tro­ver­sial ex­per­i­ments in be­hav­ior­ism us­ing ba­bies and for his ad­vo­cacy against at­tach­ment parenting, about which he and Ms. Rayner later co-au­thored a book. Dr. Wat­son was twenty years Ms. Rayner’s se­nior and mar­ried when they be­gan a scan­dalous af­fair. When their re­la­tion­ship was dis­cov­ered, she left her stud­ies while he di­vorced and was fired from Hop­kins. They then mar­ried and moved to New York where Dr. Wat­son went into ad­ver­tis­ing, per­haps achiev­ing wider in­flu­ence than in his aca­demic pub­li­ca­tions.

The first half of Be­have is about their meet­ing and fall­ing in love, set against an in­ter­est­ing nar­ra­tive de­scrib­ing his ex­per­i­ments, which, although in­for­ma­tive to later re­search de­vel­op­ments, earned aca­demic and moral crit­i­cism.

The sec­ond and third parts of the book are about their mar­ried life and the rais­ing of their two chil­dren. Ms. Rayner be­comes a wife and mother, her ca­reer in science is truly over, and her hus­band be­comes the tra­di­tional bread­win­ner. At this point, the novel tran­scends the era of the 1920s. Ms. Rayner’s strug­gles be­come the univer­sal plight of all women who gave up ca­reers for fam­i­lies. She is frus­trated and de­pressed, feel­ing her hus­band’s de­mands to be a modern, “sci­en­tific” mother, think­ing that she is fail­ing at ev­ery­thing.

Told in first-per­son, Ms. Ro­manoLax makes Ms. Rayner’s in­ter­nal plight, her fears and re­grets, vastly com­pelling and re­lat­able.

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