Indeed for those with no familiarity with these ideas the book may be tough sledding. Kerr is a trained clinical psychologist, and he doesn't hesitate to use the jargon of the trade. "Phylogenetic inheritance" comes trippingly from his pen along with such other felicitous phrases as "the clinical phenomenology of neuroses," "the psychological structure of introversion," and the "temporary effluxes of sexuality."
Certainly there is nothing wrong with this kind of language, but it does not exactly make for an easy read for the general reader. Add to this a cast of thousands (excuse the hyperbole), a gaggle of psychologists and psychoanalysts from all over the world who are referred to throughout the book, and who are very hard to keep track of if they are little more than names.
It is one thing when you're talking about well known theorists like William James, Ernest Jones and Alfred Adler, it's quite another story when you're talking about Ludwig Binswanger, Eugen Bleuler and Josef Breuer. It is not that these men are insignificant or unimportant; it is simply that they are not household names and there are so many of them.
To be clear, this is an excellent book, filled with interesting information. It has excellent analyses and critiques of some of the seminal ideas of some of the most original thinkers of the early part of the twentieth century. It provides a compelling look at the personality and character of the central figures and shows how their work was affected by it. It looks at their flaws; it looks at their merits, and it makes considered judgments.
And over its intellectual history it superimposes the narrative of a young woman who became involved with two of the century's giants and may never have quite gotten the recognition she deserved. It is simply not a book to breeze through on the beach.