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The Fig Eater

2.92 of 5 stars 2.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,902 ratings  ·  324 reviews
It is hot, unusually hot for the end of August....Someone has murdered a young woman....They find no objects, no obvious clues around her....They'll search the area again tomorrow during the day, when there is better light.

VIENNA, 1910 - Freud's Vienna, a city of horse-drawn carriages, masked balls, and gaslit cafes - hovers on the threshold between darkness and light, su...more
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,846)
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Terri Garrett
The main thing I have to say about this book is: WTF! Let me tell you, there WILL be a SPOILER ALERT so if you have any interest in actually reading this book...stop here.

I am not the kind of person who likes to give out the ending of books or movies...but, the ending was just so out of left field...its the only reason I have anything to say.

Basic premise: A woman, Dora, is murdered in turn of the century Austria.

The history of Austria and the descriptions are good...the writing itself is fine...more
A woman (based on Dora, a patient of Sigmund Freud) is found murdered in a Vienna park and a police inspector and his wife use two very different methods (scientific and intuitive) to race to solve the crime.

My sister had this book several years ago and I loved the cover and wanted to read it. A few weeks ago I bought my own copy and set to reading it. I noticed that it only had two and a half stars from amazon, but was undaunted-- it was exactly the kind of book that I would like. But it was se...more
Finished The Fig Eater while lingering over a cup of coffee & freshly-baked Gruyère gougères today. Perfect. If you have some decadent food or wine or coffee or fruit or pastry to have with this book, all the better.

I absolutely loved this book. It is full of spare beauty, of opposites (the rational vs. the emotional; male vs. female; etc...), of art.

I'm dismayed to see the low ratings this book has received on amazon & Goodreads; I'm guessing many picked up this book thinking it is a tr...more
This book made me very grumpy. You see, it's the first book I've read since my daughter Ava was born 2 months ago. I was really excited to finally have time to read, and I spent a little downtime with The Fig Eater each night. The writing was fine, and the descriptions of early 20th-century Vienna were interesting, but ultimately this turned into a sort of werewolf book (actually, no "sort of" -- it's a werewolf book), and the final solution to the crime was just not that satisfying. All rather...more
Jun 29, 2007 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the Viennese, detectives
Shelves: booksofthepast
I've read a number of reviews of this book that say it was disappointing, lacking in style, and that it fell short of its plot goals. I disagree on all accounts. I thought that Jody Shields had a wonderful writing style and that her characters all came together to create a very well rounded cast. The contrasting methods by which the detective and his wife explore the murder of young Dora (the detective through science and fact, the wife through intuition) were perfectly suited to the characters....more
J Earleywine
I wish I could give this book a 3 1/2 star rating, but without that option, I'm rounding up to a 4 to make up for the, ahem, misplaced criticism of some of the other reviews.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the book cover, as one reviewer mentions, is pretty. Therefore, people enter a book—a work of fiction that quite explicitly sets out to re-imagine Freud's most famous case as a murder and investigation—as if they had picked up a pleasure fiction book rather than an extended work of researc...more
Disturbing, grotesque, sensual, intelligent, darkly fanciful. Grounded in understanding of the pscyho-socio background of Freud's Vienna and Hungarian folk belief. Shields's writing style is beautifully restrained, leaning towards screenplay. It is more novel than whodunnit. Multitudinous themes are woven into the story: the interplay between superstition and science in the fin-de-siecle, the culture blend of Austria Hungary, of Germanic/Anglo Europe with Slavic, Hungarian and Gypsy Europe, wome...more
I don't know what to give this book.

I loved reading it. I read it in a couple days, during my commute, stayed up late, because I wanted to see how it would all work out.

UNFORTUNATELY I can totally see why people are unhappy.

SPOILERS, so don't read further if you don't want it spoiled.

Here are some of the INSANE number of questions you are left with at the end of the book, in no particular order.

2. How did Dora come in possession of the fig she ate?
3. Who thought...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I just couldn't get into this novel. I'm not sure why exactly - it was well written, well researched (the description of 1910 Vienna and Hungarian folklore were in-depth and interesting) and it had what promised to be a riveting plot line.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to work. I found the book difficult to follow at times. I constantly found myself rereading sections because the transitions were choppy. The characters were not fully realized. Hoping that the book would "pick up", I trudged thro...more
Ally Wampler
Ahh Dora, not the explorer my mind assosciates with the name. Unfortunately I didnt know much about Freud's Dora (other than what I quickly read on Wikipedia). But as my college years will prove, Wikipedia was enough to get by and appreciate Shield's imagined tragic end for Dora - again not the explorer, unless you count sexually exploring older gentlemen and possible ladies too?

Anywho, it was a somewhat intriguing mystery, with a race between the inspector and wife (unbeknownst to them) to disc...more
Only the great descriptive quality of this book pulled it up to 3 stars. Everything can be seen vividly in the mind. The story though, it has one pace only. It just chugs along with no rises or falls, like a flat line. For a book about a murder, not what I was expecting. Also the ending was very anticlimactic.
Gah. I do not like this book. It's so stuffy and full of itself. I've gone through several mystery phases in life (JA Jance, MC Beaton, etc) but this is the only murder mystery that I really don't give a crap about solving. Who cares.
I brought it on vacation and avoided it until I really had nothing else to do. Slogged through a good half of it, but now that I'm home and have access to many more enjoyable books, I will probably never finish it.
Lindsay McMaster
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
started great but didn't go anywhere. disappointing.
Oh, goodness. The cover of this book is gorgeous and the description of the back cover had me itching to read it: Murder? In Vienna? In 1910? Yes, please! What could be better than a mash-up of historical fiction and murder mystery? Unfortunately, my expectations must have been miscalibrated because this book totally missed the mark for me.

The story follows the Inspector (who remains nameless) as he investigates the death of Dora, a young girl from a well-to-do Viennese family whose throttled bo...more
Sarah S.
Dec 02, 2010 Sarah S. rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Laura B.
Shelves: book-club
Oh boy...where to start with this one. First off, the teaser on the back flap clearly portrays this book as a thrilling murder mystery, "a page turning tale of murder, sleuthing, and sexual secrets". In actuality, it is a character study, focusing mostly on the inner workings of the Inspector and his wife, their backgrounds, their suspicions and superstitions. In fact, a massive portion of the book details how these two characters interact with each other, and this has no bearing that I can see...more
THE FIG EATER. (2000). Jody Shields. ***1/2.
This is a very good first novel from this author, though there are numerous flaws that I’m sure have been pointed out to her by this time. It is a mystery set in Vienna in 1910-1911. A young woman was found in a public park. She had been strangled. There were no clues as to whom the assailant might have been. The investigation is headed up by an inspector from the police force. He is a very good policeman; fact driven and operating by the book. Sudden...more
This was a good book. It started out kind of slow and I honestly considered putting it down but it did pick up and I really started to enjoy it. It’s a mystery set in Vienna in the early 1900’s. It’s really interesting how the main character the Inspector investigates in that time period, in that area of the world. During this time period only men were inspectors so the Inspector is a man but interestingly enough his wife is also caring on her own investigation of the case at hand. This dual inv...more
A young woman is found murdered in a Viennese park near the end of the summer in 1910. Only a few clues are found near the body, and the Inspector makes meticulous note of these in his notebooks. He has learned the psychological study of crime under Professor Hans Gross, now considered to be the father of criminology. The Inspector takes a very rational approach to his examination of the facts. [return][return]Meanwhile, his wife, Erszebet, a Hungarian adept at Romany arcana, launches her own in...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Not the worst book I've read, but I would've rather spent my time reading something a little more satisfying.

I didn't have a problem with the writing or the characters. My problem was that the plot seemed to move very slowly and before I knew it I only had about 40 pages left and still didn't feel like much had happened. The story was boring, which is a shame because I did feel the characters were interesting. I also felt like a lot of the things that happened in the book were never explained or...more
Fascinating premise: an inspector investigates the murder of a young woman found dead in a park in turn-of-the-century Vienna. While he investigates using conventional methods (interviews, police reports, autopsy reports), his wife, who is Hungarian and is descended from gypsies, conducts a parallel investigation, following more ethereal clues that include her intuition, "vibes" from items that belonged to the girl, tarot card readings, etc. All of this warrants a unpredictable, shocker of an en...more
Margaret Gillette
Wow - what a slog! The high-light of this book was saying 'fiaker' out loud. Which is good because it is repeated 42 times on every page. Given the lack of significance of the actual fig (other than as a metaphor for lady parts and a plot furthering device) I think that a better title would have been 'Daughter's Fiaker' or something along the lines.

I would recommend this book to anyone who feels that the pace of life around them is too fast. This read is guaranteed to stop time for you. Its also...more
This book gave an interesting window into early 1900s Vienna ... mainly from a perspective of gastronomy (without a lot of detail) and the cutting edge forensic science of the time. I happen to like those two things, so I enjoyed reading this. But that's mainly why I'm giving 3 stars because the plot wasn't strong. This work was more about being immersed in the ambiance of the time and seeing superstition contrast with scientific methodology in the context of a murder mystery.
Lee F.
Loved the beginning...really good writing...but it turned dark and I could not stay with it.
This is one very weird book. It takes place in Vienna in 1910. A young woman, Dora, is found murdered in a park. her autopsy shows a fresh fig in her stomach when it isn't the season for figs and that kind of fig isn't found in Austria. The police inspector, whose name is never used, sets out to discover her murderer. Unknown to him his Hungarian wife becomes determined she will find the murderer. She teams up with an 18 y.o. English nanny. The wife believe in all sorts of Hungarian myths, curse...more
This book is by an American author but the story reads like a foreign, european writer. It was reviewed as "suspenseful, atmospheric and high intelligent."I didn't find it any of those things.

A woman is killed and found in a city park in Vienna in the early part of the 20th century. The main characters are the inspector, his wife and the family and friends of the murdered woman. I found the book difficult to read and confusing. It dealt with Gypsies and curses non of which had anything to to wi...more
This book has been a bit 'slow' for me. I'm almost finished and have been picking it up and putting it aside for a couple of months.
Susan Howard
Bookclub choice of mine, recommended to me by Anne O'Donnell. Strange, psychological twists, most of the girls didn't like the book because of it being a dark, psychological type. However, they talked about it ALL night and have mentioned it numerous times--so though not everyone finished it or liked it, it made an impression on all of them!

Vienna, 1910 - Freud's Vienna, a city of horse-drawn carriages, masked balls, and gaslit cafes hovers on the threshold between darkness and light, superstiti...more
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Jody Shields is the former design editor of the New York Times Magazine and a former editor at Vogue, House and Garden, and Details. She has written several screenplays and has a master's degree in art. Her prints are in various collections, including the Museum of Modern Art. She lives in New York.
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“She once told him about the mysterious trampled-down places found in fields, which the peasants superstitiously called werewolves' nests. Coming across one of these sites, she fell to her knees and buried her face in the flattened yellow grasses, hoping to inhale the odor of a werewolf, a csordásfarkas. As if his scent was a charm. She smelled nothing but hay burned by the afternoon sun.” 2 likes
“The fig tree grows its flowers strangely inside out, concealed within the soft interior of the fruit. Erszébet imagines the fig's hidden fairy weight of seeds, grown in sweetness that is also a darkness. Like treasure in a cave.” 2 likes
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