Peter Newbold is a psychiatrist. As Salley Vickers makes clear in The Other Side of You, this doesn’t automatically qualify him to practice therapy. I don’t know if Dr Newbold has had the requisite additional training – he’s published a book on attachment issues, so clearly knows about a bit more than diagnosis and drugs – but, if he has, it’s not enough to prevent him blurring the boundaries between his professional and personal lives. I’d like to be able to tell you that his behaviour is unbelievable, but sadly some psychiatrists do feel entitled to play by their own rules, even nice chaps like Peter.
We see Dr Newbold through the eyes of the narrator, Hildy Good; not a patient, but the estate agent from whom he rents his office. Perhaps through having known him as a child, perhaps through her own mistrust of experts on the psyche, Hildy is far from in awe of his profession:
I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions. (p1)
The Good House offers the reader a fairly low-key version of a therapist: Dr Newbold is only one of a wide cast of vulnerable characters muddling through as best they can. Just like real life.
For another perspective on this novel, do pop across to A Life in Books. For the next post in this series I’ll be commenting on Therapy by David Lodge.
This being my 99th blog post, I'm delighted to be able to bring something a bit special for my centenary: I'll be answering the questions set for me by Norah Colvin as part of the Liebster award.
I’d welcome your feedback and, in the meantime, let’s have some 'house' music from Talking Heads.