Thursday, September 12, 2013

TLC Book Tours Book Review: Freud's Mistress

Author: Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman
Title: Freud's Mistress
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: TLC Book Tours & the publisher
Book Blurb: 
His theories would change the world—and tear hers apart.

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.

Review:  It is terribly hard to turn Sigmund Freud into a romantic character. It is a good thing that Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman don't try to do that with their book Freud's Mistress. What they do remarkably well is show how his wife's sister came to be a huge part of his life as more than just a sister-in-law.

Minna is completely different from her sister Martha. She's younger and she's more interested Freud's work. 
She's really a difficult person to like, but really the same could be said for both her sister and Sigmund.

What really surprised me was the amount of drug usage that went on in that time period. I knew about laudanum, but I never realized that near the turn of the century people casually used cocaine, as if it were a harmless substance. Of course, some of that could explain his theories in regards to psychoanalysis.

The authors let you in on his work through Minna, as she discusses his career with him. Most readers taking a psychology course know a bit about his work, and this book only helps me to firm my own theory that Freud was sex obsessed and had plenty of problems of his own.

Minna is drawn into that intellectual world and because of her interest, Freud takes a liking to her. It really is hard to imagine someone falling for their sibling's spouse, and at times, though Minna seems to show guilt, it doesn't quite stop her. 

Did Martha know what was going on? The author's hint about it, though I wonder, would you keep your husband's mistress with you even if she were your sister? 

By the end of the novel, though I can't say that I liked Minna any more than I did at the start of the novel, I can say that I felt truly sorry for her. If you read the author's notes, not much is really known about Minna, but she did live for 42 years with her sister and Freud, never marrying or having children of her own.

Her's is then, truly a sad story. 

Rating: 5 flowers


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Wow, I really don't know much about Freud or his wife or his mistress ... sounds like I could learn a lot from this book.

Thanks for being on the tour.

trish said...

Interesting about the drug use.

I wonder, too, about how Minna would characterize her story -- sad or otherwise. Must have been hard being in love with your sister's husband and living with them.

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