Distantly Related to Freud

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Books | 0 comments


It’s Montreal, 1953, and eight-year-old Ellen, an only child prone to daydreaming, and her mother, a woman who believes in the promise of fresh starts, have moved into a large house on the flanks of Mt. Royal. To make ends meet, Ellen’s mother takes in a group of refugees from Central Europe, whose erratic behaviour and dark view of human nature captivate the young girl’s imagination. Ellen sees the refugees as a potential source of valuable information about her own background, of which she has heard little, except for a few stories about a lost golden civilization and the family’s distant connection to Sigmund Freud. The refugees soon leave to be replaced by Aunt Celia, a woman whose anxiety meter is permanently stuck at danger, and Ellen’s new stepfather, Dr. Henryk Steiner, whose years in the Soviet Union have earned him the title of "Playboy of the Communist World". 

While the adults wrangle with each other and the fallout from their past lives, Ellen sets her sights on exploring the brave new world of "America," and on becoming a teenage femme fatale. Her quest takes her to Crescent Bay, Long Island, and into the placid lives of her American cousins and their friends. Supporting her along the way is her best friend Lydia, a fellow rebel whose mother, Magda, sets off a series of events that will alter the course of the two girls’ lives.

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Cormorant Books (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897151306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897151303
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches


Distantly Related to Freud

"A remarkable coming of age story that reveals the sensibility, insight and fierceness that shape a true writer."
- Eleanor Wachtel, CBC

"Ann Charney’s new novel doesn’t succumb to such easy structures. An immigrant story set in the Montreal of the 1950s and early ’60s, it follows the messy, intimate, and familiar drive of a young girl to find her way through the maze of conflicting codes and personal woes besetting the adults who try to control her destiny. The voice of the narrator, Ellen, is strong and true, giving this delicious novel the ingenuous power of a memoir."
- Walrus

"Charney has crafted a luminous coming-of-age narrative about the fleeting nature of friendship, the persistence of family, and growing up in Montreal in the 1950s and '60s.  With its winsome protagonist and the palpable interplay between innocence and the shadows that encroach on it, Charney has written one of the most endearing novels of the season."
- Montreal Review of Books

"Where Charney distinguishes herself is in her smart, playfully organic exploration of character."
- National Post

"Ann Charney has succeeded in humanizing eroticism with humour, uniting the flesh and the spirit."
Le Devoir

"This is a seductive coming of age novel, enhanced by the great accuracy with which it evokes the place and time of its setting."
La Presse.

"Filled with sex and surprises … it deserves any jury's attention."
The Sun Times

"Charney uses her powers of subtle language and humour to keep the reader interested ...the tone and the pace of the novel is unwavering and strong.  Her novel is more than an expertly told coming-of-age book. Ellen’s struggle with the many ways she exists outside the norm strikes a universal chord.Distantly Related to Freud is a meditation on the multiple layers of difference that make us all who we are."
Women's Post

"Where Charney distinguishes herself is in her smart, playfully organic exploration of character."
The National Post

"With Distantly Related to Freud, she has crafted a witty, psychologically astute account of a girl growing into herself and her talents."
The Gazette

"Filled with sex and surprises… it deserves any jury's attention."
 - The Sun Times

"The action is subtle and natural, never overblown..all of it contributing to the development of a young woman.  Charney use her powers of language and humour to keep the reader interested."
 - Globe and Mail



  1. Catch up on my last novel Distantly Related to Freud by joining my most recent Goodreads Giveaway | Ann Charney - […] you read LIFE CLASS enjoy my last book from Cormorant Books called Distantly Related to Freud and sign up…

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