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4.2 out of 5 stars106
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 9 July 2003
It is very important that you read Oliver James' introduction to this book if you choose to buy it. If you've decided to read a book sub-titled 'How to Survive Family Life' the chances are you may already hold at least the foundations of a grudge against your parents. Oliver James makes it clear that he does not wish to make family strife worse. The book's title is inspired by a Philip Larkin poem and readers should know that the poem's ultitmate advice is not to have children. This book ends on a much more upbeat note. In fact throughout the book the author contends that a person's pyschology is moulded by their parents and that this is a much happier position than if personalities, and therefore personality disorders, were all 100% genetic. He maintains that with education and support parents can change for the better. He also believes that people can use analysis of their childhoods to see why they behave the way they do and perhaps understand themselves for the better - and at the very least ensure their own children get an easier ride of things. The book treats the reader, and therefore every reader, as if he/she was a patient and it is somewhat frustrating not to be able to talk back. Interestingly (please note if you are a publisher) I liked it because I didn't feel beneath it in the way I do with many 'self-help' titles.
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on 10 November 2003
It always pains me to read luke-warm Amazon reviews of a book that has really impressed me so I feel I must add my enthusiastic praise to this page. As a layman to the field of psychoanalysis, I am fascinated by the insights James has provided me with and I truly believe he has written an acurate and useful book that many people will benefit from.
If you can't afford the £40/hour to see a shrink, you could do worse than blow the money on expanding your self-knowledge and understanding with a copy of this.
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on 20 August 2015
I think everyone should read this . I wish I'd of read it years ago . It explains a lot about your own childhood and how family life can impact you . If your thinking of having children I'd read this first . From the moment your born it tells you how the way your feed etc affects you .
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on 16 June 2007
Brilliant book without any jargon. I have lent it to my daughter with the caveat that I was not giving her bullets to fire at me but rather helping her not to make the sames mistakes with her own daughter. I wish I'd read this forty years ago.
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on 18 February 2016
This is an excellent book with some real insights in to family dynamics and child psychology. There are times when reading this, when one can make comparisons with ones own experiences and prove or disprove some of the conjectures made. I think the author has an easy style and although he clearly has an idea of what point he is trying to make, it is still well rounded. I did check out some of the references and he has (unsurprisingly) been selective in some of his quoting, at times doing so completely contradictorily to the paper referenced, hence not the full five stars.
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on 25 August 2003
I found this book extremely disappointing. Despite the regular references to research, these were highly selective towards James' polemic and rambled all over the place. Of obvious dubiousness were the references to gay men's sexuality stemming from family order and relationship with their mother, particularly because I could find nothing in the index which would "explain" lesbians as well. I couldn't finish the book.
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on 16 May 2015
The research and information is first class, but you have to sift through a lot of info about twins and schizophrenia (which is fine if that is relevant to you) but if not, although interesting, is rather long winded. I think this book either covers too much or needs to be reformatted; perhaps with chapters relating to twin or schizophrenia research, so that you can skip that and get to the part(s) that relate to you.

I feel this is a book more for those studying psychology rather than those of us that want answers to the way we are.
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on 3 March 2004
Completely liberating. Shocking, but liberating. I now know the answers to some of the most painful questions which have been nagging at me for over 30 years. I would genuinely recommend this book to anyone who feels at odds with their life.
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on 28 April 2007
Well... may be not. It could certainly make you stop and think. While parts of it are debatable, especially in terms of the stuff on genetics and the focus on the first six years, it is in most ways an outstanding book. It is refreshing in that it does not try to be a self-help book. Yet, by avoiding the gimics and nonsense of many self-help books, it presents a superb account of how we as individuals come to be.

Personally I found it very helpful, it gave me a lot of insights into my own insecurities and provides a real anchor point for understanding. There are also some useful exercises throughout the book to do an 'emotional audit.'

This book is very well written and cogently summarises a lot of theories, as well as illustrating points with interesting biographies of well known people.

This book should have a wide appeal: to anyone who has struggled in relationships, to a student of psychology or related discipline, or to the intersted general reader.
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Oliver James really is in need of a good editor, this book bangs on and on about the fact that nurture is more important than nature. He's too extreme in his view for my taste, I still think it's a bit of both. However since nurture is the only thing we have any control over, perhaps it's reasonable to concentrate on it.

He could really have summarised his argument in one chapter and then gone on to describe how to diagnose and basically fix yourself. However he rambles, boy does he ramble on! The book becomes a chore after a while, I enjoyed Affleunza but not this book.

I would really recommend 'Families and How to Survive Them (Cedar Books)' over this, it explains in clear terms what our developmental stages are and what can go wrong and what's the cure. Plus it's got illustrations(!)
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