Mental Help Net
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing Stories101 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Using HypnosisA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyA Therapist's Guide to Understanding Common Medical ProblemsACT With LoveAlready FreeAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionBad TherapyBecoming MyselfBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBiofeedback for the BrainBody PsychotherapyBody SenseBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBreaking ApartBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheChoosing an Online TherapistClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCompassion and Healing in Medicine and SocietyConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCouch FictionCounseling with Choice TheoryCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDecoding the Ethics CodeDepression 101Depression in ContextDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTDoing ItE-TherapyEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveEssays on Philosophical CounselingEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEveryday Mind ReadingExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExistential PsychotherapyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFlourishingFlying ColorsGod & TherapyHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHow and Why Are Some Therapists Better Than Others?How People ChangeHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Go to TherapyIf Only I Had KnownIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt’s Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLetters to a Young TherapistLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMan's Search for MeaningMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMindfulnessMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessOf Two MindsOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOutsider Art and Art TherapyOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical MidwiferyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPlato, Not Prozac!Process-Based CBTPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy East and WestPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRecovery OptionsRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulSecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf MattersSelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapyStrangers to OurselvesTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyThe Art of HypnosisThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Compassionate ConnectionThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Fall Of An IconThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New PsychoanalysisThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe UnsayableThe Wing of MadnessTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapyTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTreating Attachment DisordersWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom? Second EditionWhy Psychoanalysis?Yoga Therapy
Therapist Search
Find a Therapist:
 (USA/CAN only)

Use our Advanced Search to locate a therapist outside of North America.

Related Topics

Psychological Testing
Mental Disorders
Mental Health Professions
Treatments & Interventions

by John Sedgwick
HarperCollins, 2002
Review by Su Terry on Nov 26th 2002

The Education of Mrs. Bemis

            The Education of Mrs. Bemis: A Novel by John Sedgwick is a good old-fashion mystery. Like Sedgwick’s previous novel, Dark House, it has everything - murder, sex, illegitimacy, and insanity among the Boston Brahmin class.

The Education of Mrs. Bemis: A Novel by John Sedgwick is set in modern Boston with copious flashbacks to an earlier and more elegant era. While shopping at Filene's Department Store, Alice Matthews, a young psychiatrist, discovers an elegantly dressed woman sleeping on a bed in Bed and Bath Department. Alice determines that the woman appears to be physical okay but very disoriented. An ambulance is called, and the woman is sent to Boston City Hospital for a medical and psychiatric evaluation. At Boston Hospital it is ascertained that the woman is Mrs. Madeline Bemis, a 76-year old wealthy widow and society matron. Dr. Gerald Faulkes, the emergency room physician, concludes that Mrs. Bemis is physically healthy, but that her refusal to talk suggests some mental imbalance and warrants further evaluation and treatment. After consulting with Dr. Faulkes, Alice Matthews has Mrs. Bemis sent to the once exclusive Montrose Psychiatric Hospital where she works. Alice is intrigued by Mrs. Bemis and her persistent silence and decides that she wants to be the one to release her from her prison of silence. After much wrangling with her superiors over treatment methods, Alice wins the honor of handling Mrs. Bemis case. While Alice works hard to break Mrs. Bemis silence, Madeline Bemis is hard at work reviewing her life story. In a flashback, Mrs. Bemis returns to the 1940s and her youthful self as “Maddy.” She has been called home from boarding school to see her college-aged second cousin off to war. At first Maddy is confused by her parent’s request to come home, but when her cousin asks for a lock of her hair and for her to wait for him, she begins to understand her parents’ logic. Bemis is rich, handsome, and has a bright future ahead of him in his father’s firm. In short, he is every girl’s dream and every parent’s hope for a daughter’s future husband. After a rushed first kiss at the train station, Bemis boards a train for officer’s training and Maddy returns home to prepare for her role as Mrs. Bemis. Both families are ecstatic over the future union, but Maddy is not so thrilled. She is frustrated by the prospect of sitting home, having never had a date and only one unsatisfying kiss, while her friends are out enjoying the social frenzy and whirlwind romances of wartime Boston. When a sexy Irish day-laborer tempts Maddy to slip away with him for a night of dancing, Maddy literally jumps at the chance, but she gets more than she bargains for and is left pregnant.  When her parents discover her “delicate situation” she is sent to an exclusive home for unwed mothers in Golden, Colorado for a supposed “rest cure.” Meanwhile, Bemis has been wounded and lies physically and emotionally shattered in a hospital in England. The one hope he clings to is to return home and marry his “ever faithful” Maddy. Marry they do, but there is no “happily ever after” for this couple. Flash forward, Alice has gotten much too personally involved in Mrs. Bemis’ case. Alice seeks out the help of detective Frank LeBeau, a police officer that assisted her with a violent ex-boyfriend. As they explore their relationship with each other, they are also forced to explore the strange connections between their individual cases (Alice’s silent Mrs. Bemis and Frank’s mysterious corpse).

This book raises many ethical questions. Both Alice, the psychiatrist, and Frank the police detective, push the boundaries of professional ethics. Alice uses her relationship with Frank to access his police resources for information about Mrs. Bemis past. Frank uses Alice to probe Mrs. Bemis for personal information about the dead man. Alice uses Frank’s information to invade Mrs. Bemis personal life and to trespass on her and other people’s property. Frank uses Alice’s information to identify his corpse and to solve the mystery of his death. In addition, Alice accepts a rather major gift from Mrs. Bemis – to go into details would ruin the story – but it is substantial and clearly must be in violation of professional ethics and practice for psychiatrists.

John Sedgwick is a magazine journalist with 20 years of experience. He graduated from Harvard. He is a writer-at-large for GQ, contributing editor for Newsweek and the national correspondent for Self. He has written articles for Atlantic, Town and Country, and Worth. He has written three nonfiction including, Night Visions: Confessions of Gil Lewis, Private Eye (1982); Rich Kids: Young Heirs and Heiresses: How They Love and Hate Their Money (1985) The Peaceable Kingdom: A Year In The Life Of America’s Oldest Zoo (1988) and two novels, Dark House (2000), and The Education of Mrs. Bemis (2002). John Sedgwick is a member of the historic Sedgwick family of Boston and his family live in Newton, MA.

The Education of Mrs. Bemis: A Novel by John Sedgwick is an education for the reader. It should spark questions about ethical issues, but if the reader does not want to think that hard, it is also an engrossing psychological mystery. A worthwhile read! I recommend this book.


© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.

Follow us on Twitter!

Find us on Facebook!

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

Powered by CenterSite.Net