ANDROMEDA ROMANO- LAX
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.