Book summary: "In this sweeping tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal—between a husband and a wife, between sisters—fact and fiction seamlessly blend together to offer an intimate peek at Minna’s profound influence on the founding father of psychoanalysis, while revealing her unforgettable story of internal conflict and passion." (back cover)
My thoughts: The facts of history don't fully support or refute the idea of an affair between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna. Rumors of the affair first broke in 1907 when the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung visited Freud. Jung claims that while at Freud's home, Minna confessed to an affair with her sister's husband. Since the scandalous story first appeared, historians have been working to verify or deny the existence of an affair between Freud and Minna. As recent as 2009, the mystery deepened when a researcher found an entry in a hotel log that could be attributed to Freud and Minna.
The world may never have conclusive evidence of an on-going affair between the pair, but for the purpose of this book, the affair is assumed as fact. Historical facts in this book are gleaned from letters that do survive between Freud, his wife Martha and her sister Minna. The book is also filled with cultural references such as mentions of Emerson and Mark Twain. The rest is a fictionalized account of what might have happened.
Despite the title, Minna is actually more of a second wife than a mistress. She lived with Freud and her sister for decades. As a second wife, her role in the house is a bit clearer. Martha was the matronly mother who cared for the household. Minna was the educated companion who challenged Freud on his theories and allowed him to explore his intellectual whims.
What surprised me most about the book was how unromantic the whole thing actually was. Freud was often an arrogant and pompous intellectual with little to love. He espoused sex as a requirement of life, along with drug use and his surly intellectual arguments with many. Perhaps Minna was attracted to his mind, but for all those years? Truly unromantic.
Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman has a lot to like. Set in late 19th century Vienna, this interesting tale about Sigmund Freud and his private life is filled with timely cultural references, insights into Victorian society norms and Freud's radical ideas that broke all the rules.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
- Pages: 368
- Year originally published: 2013
- Authors: Find out more about Karen and Jennifer at their website, and connect with them on Facebook.
- You might want to know: Freud’s Mistress is the third novel by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman. Their first novel, Literacy and Longing in L.A., reached #1 on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List and won the Best Fiction Award from the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. Their second novel, A Version of the Truth, was also a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Freud’s Mistress is their first historical novel.
- Book Tour: This review is part of a larger collection of reviews. For more reviews of Freud's Mistress, please visit TLC Book Tours.
- Purchase on Amazon: Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman