Book of scandal, infidelities, and depression.

I found this book to be morally disturbing (using babies as simply test objects – “things”). It was difficult for me to read in the beginning because of the subject matter and my own “dislike” of the characters. However, once I got over that, (major credit to the author’s writing skills) I found the story to be insightful, interesting, and an educational look at the beginning of studying infant/child behavior. John Watson encouraged parents lack of attachment and forced dependence at a young age. His belief was that soothing any baby was counterproductive to their own healthy development. Today, scientist would never get away with subjecting infants to the experiences that were the norm in Watson’s lab. So, while I don’t agree Watson’s attitude or experiments, the author told the story as it was meant to be in that time period. I felt sympathy for Rosalie (and especially for her sons) as well as being furious with her. She found herself a main participant in a scandal, which led to the end of a promising career. She took care of her own babies professionally rather than maternally, though she wavered. The Watson’s ensured their sons lack of attachment and dependence. Their hopes were for their sons to grow up healthy, able to work, love and be happy. (I believe they failed, especially with 3 of John’s children trying to commit suicide.) John Watson created, with Rosalie’s help, baby behavior books which parents chose to follow, and some did not. Same thing happens today. There are tons of books, papers, that parents flock to for help raising their children, especially newborns. Rosalie Rayner Watson was a smart young woman. One has to wonder what kind of scientist she could have become had she not fallen for John Watson. The author accomplished her goal to give voice to a woman mostly forgotten by history. I was not aware of Rosalie’s story. Now, 2 weeks after finishing this powerful novel, I’m still mulling it over in my head.

I received a free copy via Netgalley for an honest review. (I will buy this book to keep on my shelf)


From the author of The Spanish Bow comes a lush, harrowing novel based on the real life story of Rosalie Rayner Watson, one of the most controversial scientists—and mothers—of the 20th century

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,” wrote the founder of behaviorist psychology, John B. Watson, whose 1928 parenting guide was revered as the child-rearing bible. For their dangerous and “mawkish” impulses to kiss and hug their child, “most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.”

Behave is the story of Rosalie Rayner, Watson’s ambitious young wife and the mother of two of his children.

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs—and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

With Behave, Andromeda Romano-Lax offers a provocative fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, a woman whose work influenced generations of Americans, and whose legacy has been lost in the shadow of her husband’s. In turns moving and horrifying, Behave is a richly nuanced and disturbing novel about science, progress, love, marriage, motherhood, and what all those things cost a passionate, promising young woman.


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