I received Freud’s Mistress from the Library Thing Early Readers program for review.
About the Book:
A page-turning novel inspired by the true-life love affair between Sigmund Freud and his sister-in-law.
It is fin-de-siècle Vienna and Minna Bernays, an overeducated lady’s companion with a sharp, wry wit, is abruptly fired, yet again, from her position. She finds herself out on the street and out of options. In 1895, the city may be aswirl with avant-garde artists and revolutionary ideas, yet a woman’s only hope for security is still marriage. But Minna is unwilling to settle. Out of desperation, she turns to her sister, Martha, for help.
Martha has her own problems—six young children and an absent, disinterested husband who happens to be Sigmund Freud. At this time, Freud is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses. And while Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s “pornographic” work, Minna is fascinated.
Minna is everything Martha is not—intellectually curious, engaging, and passionate. She and Freud embark on what is at first simply an intellectual courtship, yet something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, something Minna cannot escape.
In this sweeping tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal—between a husband and a wife, between sisters—fact and fiction seamlessly blend together, creating a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman and her struggle to reconcile her love for her sister with her obsessive desire for her sister’s husband, the mythic father of psychoanalysis.
I must admit to not knowing much about Freud when I received this book; only the generalities that I suppose most people know. I can’t say my opinion was positive or negative but I can say that if the personality created for him in this book is based in fact I most assuredly would not have liked the man. Granted it was a time when women did not have much value in the minds of men and I suspect that given the little I DO know of Dr. Freud he in particular would have minimal use for them, but he did not treat his wife as a wife but rather as a brood mare. He gave little thought to her beyond what she could do for him and when she couldn’t due to her illnesses – well, that was that.
The book does mostly focus on Mrs. Freud’s sister – she of the title. There is no actual proof of an affair, only hints and whispers left to history. (This is made clear in the note at the end.) Minna came to live with the family to help her sister and she had an intelligence that apparently her sister lacked. She also didn’t have 6 children. Women with intelligence were frowned upon in these times when the choices were marry or perhaps become a lady’s companion. I can only imagine how stifling it must have been for her and then she is in the presence of a man who seemed to respect her brain. It must have been intoxicating.
The book was well written and I did enjoy it. Whether it happened or not we will never know. Did it make a good story? Yes, especially in the hands of this (these) author(s). The reader just need remember that it IS historical FICTION.
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Disclosure: I received Freud’s Mistress from the Library Thing Early Readers program for review. I received a second copy from another source which I am giving away. I received no compensation for this post.