It’s almost impossible to describe Hysteria by Elisabeth de Mariaffi, for it moves not only through a wide range of genres but also beyond their limits, into strange and uncharted literary terrain. Domestic thrillers, psychological thrillers, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical fiction, detective stories – they’re all present in Hysteria in one form or another. But they’re also transformed into something else, a narrative of resistance for a world gone mad, for a world that has perhaps always been mad. The book’s title is a clue to the eerie nature of its story: it’s a state of mind, not a fixed and stable plot with the clear and unambiguous ending of a conventional thriller. In other words, Hysteria is a book better experienced than described.
That said, here’s the book description if you want to learn more:
Heike Lerner’s life looks perfect from the outside: she’s settled into an easy routine of caring for her young son, Daniel, and spends her days wandering the woods near their summer house, while her nights are filled with clinking glasses and charming conversation. It all helps to keep her mind at ease—or at least that’s what her husband, Eric, tells her. But lately, Heike’s noticed there are some things out of place: a mysterious cabin set back in the trees and a strange little girl who surfaces alone at the pond one day, then disappears—while at home Eric is becoming increasingly more controlling. Something sinister that Heike cannot quite put her finger on is lingering just beneath the surface of this idyllic life.
It’s possible Heike’s worries are all in her head, but when the unthinkable happens—Daniel vanishes while she and Eric are at a party one night—she can no longer deny that something is very wrong.
Desperate to find her son, Heike will try anything, but Eric insists on a calm that feels so cold she wonders if she can trust him at all.
Could Eric be involved in Daniel’s disappearance? Or has some darker thing taken him?I Remember You sales cover The closer Heike gets to the truth, the faster it slips away. But she will not rest until she finds her son.
And there’s also a Walrus piece on the book for more thoughts. Excerpt:
Hysteria is a novel about many things—a mother’s love, the institution of psychiatry. But at heart, it is a novel about the ordinary corruptibility of plot: how certain men wield narrative to manipulate women, to convince them that they are crazy and the world that denies them their happiness is sane. De Mariaffi purges this corruption, turning one genre against another, fighting plot with plot.