"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

Freud's Mistress
Authors: Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman
Published:  July 2013
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Pages: 368
Format:  Hardcover
Source:  A copy was provided by the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Receipt thereof did not influence my opinion nor this review.

A page-turning novel inspired by the true-life love affair between Sigmund Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, set in Vienna in 1895. Minna is everything her sister Martha is not—intellectually curious, an avid reader and a beguiling beauty. 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 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.

My Review:

A friend and I were recently discussing geniuses and the fact that so many of them are intellectual snobs.  When I look at Sigmund Freud's life as illustrated in Freud's Mistress, I see a similar pattern of behaviour.  He pays little attention to Martha, his wife; nor to his children, of which he has six.  But when Martha's sister Minna, joins the household, Freud recognizes an individual with whom he can and does willingly discuss his theories and work.  She is not his intellectual equal, which is obvious from the way he treats her in the novel; but she seems to be far more interested and interesting and she is near at hand.

What begins as an intellectual affair of sorts, soon develops into something more and it is little wonder that it does.  When two people of opposite sex share so much, the next stage of the relationship can easily become much more personal.  Mack and Kaufman draw upon this likelihood, acknowledging the hotel ledger in which the couple signed in as a married couple, and the reader is privy to what may have been the internal machinations of forbidden attraction.

It is theorized that this relationship between Sigmund and Minna influenced Freud's advancement in psychology.  Certainly, with Martha under the influence of opiates and overwhelmed with the task of running a busy household with six children, it seems she couldn't be bothered with listening to Sigmund's theories.  Perhaps she was even glad to find relief in knowing her sister had taken the place of a sounding board.  However, I cannot fathom her being accepting of an intimate relationship between her husband and her sister.  

Mack and Kaufman exercise some literary liberties in conveying the personalities and situations within Freud's life but they do so with significant research to back up their theories.  

For the lover of historical fiction, fascinators of great intellectual biographies, and those interested in theories of psychology; this novel may be just the book you are looking for.

About the Authors:

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 TimesBestseller 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. Karen Mack, a former attorney, is a Golden Globe Award-winning film and television producer. Jennifer Kaufman is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and a two-time winner of the national Penney-Missouri Journalism Award. Both authors live in Los Angeles with their families.
Find out more about Karen and Jennifer at their website, and connect with them on Facebook.


  1. Can't wait to read this one. Glad you recommend it.

  2. I find this topic fascinating -- that someone would fall in love with Freud, who for all intents and purposes seems like a jerk. I know that happens all the time, but it still fascinates me. I'm glad you enjoyed the authors' take on what may have happened...makes me wonder how close to the truth they were able to get!

    Thanks for being on the tour!


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