Out of desperation, Minna turns to her older sister, Martha, for help. But Martha has her own problems — six young children, a host of physical ailments, a household run with military precision, and an absent, overworked, disinterested husband who happens to be Sigmund Freud. Freud is a struggling professor, all but shunned by his peers and under attack for his theories, most of which center around sexual impulses, urges, and perversions. While Martha is shocked and repulsed by her husband’s "pornographic" work, Minna is fascinated.
Minna is everything Martha is not—intellectually curious, an avid reader, stunning. But while she and Freud embark on what is at first simply an intellectual courtship, something deeper is brewing beneath the surface, something Minna cannot escape.
My Thoughts: Over the years there has been speculation of an affair between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Berneays. Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman looked at historical facts and created a very interesting fictionalized story of what happened between them.
Minna worked in a number of homes as a Lady’s Companion. When she lost yet another job she went and stayed with her sister, Martha and her husband Sigmund Freud. There she helped her sister tend her six children. Martha seems overwhelmed with the children and the task of running the house. Minna observes her sister is an avid user of opium (even giving the opium to the children). Freud is consumed by his work and proving his theories (Oedipus Complex) to his fellow colleagues.
Minna is a different sort of woman in her own right. She is an avid reader, follows politics, she is intellectually curious about the world. Minna almost immediately becomes intrigued by Freud’s work. The two begin to spend a considerable amount of time together discussing his work, while Freud is barely around Martha and the children. Slowly an intellectual affair occurs between the two. As the two grow closer is that really enough?
Freud’s Mistress was immediately added to my wishlist when I read about it. I really enjoy reading fictionalized stories about real life people. I have a tremendous appreciation for the amount of research it must take. Like most people I was well aware of Freud’s theories and was interested in learning more about the man himself.
In the novel, Freud comes off very full of himself and rather uninterested in those around him, very egotistical. His wife, Martha seemed so overwhelmed by her life. I was fairly sympathetic to her. Freud seemed very uninterested in his wife since her world did not revolve around him. Then there is Minna. I was a little surprised she was not more upset by Freud’s indifference to her sister. As a sister, I would be upset if I saw my brother-in-law act the way Freud did and I would like to think I wouldn’t be pulled into his world.
The build-up of the relationship between Minna and Freud seemed to take awhile to get moving, so the beginning of the novel was slow. The story was written with a third person point of view, which almost exclusively centered on Minna. I really enjoyed the story and thought it was well written, but the one thing I found is occasionally the authors would suddenly center on Freud or Martha for a single sentence or paragraph and I found that slightly jarring to read. It was rarely done, but wanted to mention it. Over all I really enjoyed the novel.
I would definitely recommend Freud’s Mistress, but I would say give the novel some time to develop. Once the story really got moving, I was swept away.
Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman
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