“Freud’s Mistress” by Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman

Freud's Mistress

On Facebook I saw the post: “Do you love “The Paris Wife” and “Loving Frank” and have a blog?  If you do, get in touch.”

And because I do, I did.

It’s interesting to me that I think of myself as a purely Adult Fiction reader, rarely choosing a non-fiction book for pleasurable reading, yet those two books – and now this one – as fictionalized accounts of very non-fiction people and events, have become some of my favorites! 

“The Paris Wife” led me down the Hemingway rabbit hole; I watched the movies “The Sun Also Rises” and “Hemingway and Gilhorn,” I loved the Hemingway role in “Midnight in Paris,” I read “The Movable Feast,” and I listened to the author of “The Paris Wife talk about her research (click for my post about it).

“Loving Frank” led me to research his homes and to find three of them in Rochester and drive by them.  “The Women” (about the rest of the women in Wright’s life) is still in my TBR pile (thanks, Sarah!).  

And now, Freud.

This story starts in 1895.  Minna Bernays is employed as a lady’s companion or governess, in an attempt to support herself – an educated, single woman nearing 30 years old.  She cannot bear the treatment given to some of the employees in the household, so she gives all her money to help the young kitchen helper get to the doctor, buy her medicine, and then buy her a train ticket home to her family.  She then writes to her sister, Martha, and asks for help out of her unfavorable situation.  Martha insists she move in immediately, and so begins Minna’s life in the home of Dr. Sigmund Freud.

Minna is no stranger to the family; she and Freud had been corresponding for years.  She is fascinated by his intelligence and theories and he finds her to be a worthy listener.  She challenges him and he confides in her.  This story is about the relationship between Minna and Freud, which is filled with attraction and tension, jealousy and longing.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  It is a good book – so I think you should read it for yourself!

This book was an easy read with very engaging and well-written characters.  The authors have obviously done their homework – on Victorian homes and clothing, Freud’s relationships with his contemporaries, his obsession with ancient knick-knacks and cigars, and his relationship with his family.  Because of this book I found myself watching a Biography of Freud on the internet (click to see for yourself!).  I realized I knew NOTHING about the man and found his story fascinating.  For example:

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. Español: Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, fumando. Česky: Zakladatel psychoanalýzy Sigmund Freud kouří doutník. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • He was raised Jewish, but didn’t believe in religion.
  • He wanted to be a researcher, but there was a quota on the number of Jewish people who could do research, so he went to medical school.
  • He “courted” his wife for five years and during that time wrote her 900 letters.  It is written that they would be worthy of being categorized as great love letters.  He wouldn’t marry her until he had some level of success.
  • He went into the study of neuroses because few people were studying mental illness at that time and he knew he could make his mark.
  • He had 6 children with Martha within 8 years – and then he became abstinent sexually in their marriage.  He felt that the only way to prevent neuroses was through unfettered sexual intercourse with your spouse and he didn’t want any more children, nor did he want to utilize birth control methods, because that would be fettering.  Goodness.
  • He was addicted to cigars, smoking 25-30 per DAY – even after his diagnosis of oral cancer which left him with a prosthetic jaw!
  • He was also addicted to his work, saying “A man like me cannot live without a hobby horse, a consuming passion, a tyrant.  I have found my tyrant, and in his service, I know no limits.  My tyrant is psychology.”
  • Through self-analysis, he “cured”himself of his travel phobia.  He also used to faint around “gifted male friends,” but he didn’t cure that.
  • He created a Wednesday Society of his avid followers; later he created a secret society made of his “band of disciples,” members wore rings.
  • He was seen as an “enemy of the people” by Hitler and his were among the first books burned during Hitler’s rise to power.
  • He thought that Hitler represented his worst fears of “darkness and psychosis,” yet he refused to leave his home in Vienna until his beloved daughter Anna was arrested.  He then agreed to leave and moved his family to London, where the Freud museum is now located.
  • He continued to see patients until he was on his death bed.  His cancer returned and was untreatable, so he took a lethal dose of morphine. He was 83.
  • His ashes are now kept in a vase from his vast collection of ancient artifacts.  He said he collected the ancient artifacts because he felt that he was “an archaeologist of the mind.”

Just as “The Paris Wife” gave me a sympathetic view of Hemingway, the man who is known as a cad throughout history, this story of “Freud’s Mistress” gives a different view of the man who is known to view women as inferior, due to their lack of a penis.  He is portrayed as obsessed with his work, but appreciative of the intellect of Minna.   On that note, I will close with one of the more famous quotes by Freud, as well as a response by Bill Cosby:

The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’  Sigmund Freud

“Sigmund Freud once said, “What do women want?” The only thing I have learned in 52 years is that women want men to stop asking dumb questions like that.”  Bill Cosby

Another amusing take on trying to figure out women...
Another amusing take on trying to figure out women…


tlc tour host

For more reviews of this book, see the other blogs on the tour!  I’ll post again about a giveaway so that you can read this book for yourself!

Monday, September 2nd: BookNAround

Monday, September 2nd: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, September 3rd: The Lost Entwife

Wednesday, September 4th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, September 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, September 9th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, September 10th: Books in the Burbs

Wednesday, September 11th: A Novel Review

Thursday, September 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, September 16th: Read Lately

Monday, September 16th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, September 17th: WalkieTalkieBookClub

Wednesday, September 18th: Lectus

Friday, September 20th: Book-alicious Mama

Monday, September 23rd: My Bookshelf

Friday, September 27th: guiltless reading

Monday, September 30th: Lavish Bookshelf

What’s Making Me Happy 8.31.13

Secret Society of Happy People
Secret Society of Happy People

Since it’s the last day of “Happiness Happens Month,” August 2013, I wanted to get one more Happiness post in!  It’s been a light blogging month, because so much fun has been going on!  Many of the items listed below are worthy of their own posts, and I will work on that in September.  So for now, here’s what’s making me happy – abbreviated August edition!

  • The most recent happiness:  I went to Caribou to get my last caffeine infusion at 9:45 pm last night and the manager wouldn’t let me pay.  Pay it Forward, I say!
  • And the Section of Social Work is strongly promoting that!  I’m on the social committee (of course) and we organized a Random Acts of Kindness/ Pay it Forward event starting last week, so that’s exciting!
  • The Minnesota State Fair – three times this week!  How crazy is that?  I’ll blog more later about the awesome fun, delicious fried goodness and hot hot sweaty days.  I’ve never gone 3 times in a year before.
  • Ferragosto!  Also deserves at least one blog post because it was the BEST ever!  (Until next year, right?)  The weather was perfect, the food and drink were delicious, and friends came and went with perfection.  It was hard to leave but the feeling continues!  Storing that sunshine in my cells!
  • I am going to do another “book tour” blog/review!  When I saw the question:  “Did you like “Loving Frank” and “The Paris Wife“?” I bit!  (Click to read my blogs about those books)  “Freud’s Mistress” coming soon to this blog!  Details to follow in another blog post!
  • Marissa is moved in to Minneapolis!  She is living life large, of course, and I can only hope that when school begins she can fit in time for studying!

And now I must dash to work… life is great!  What August memories are making you happy??


Anna Karenina Readalong

Main characters and relations in Anna Karenina...
Image via Wikipedia

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” —C.S. LEWIS

Wallace at Unputdownables is hosting a readalong of “Anna Karenina.”  I was one of the first to tell her I was in and she had a copy of the book that she sent to me, so I have a BIG, beautiful copy of the book!  I was a little behind, as I didn’t start reading it until Wednesday night, but it was easy to catch up and I finished our assigned reading for the week last night.  Handling it in chunks is going to be nice.  Discussing it with others is going to be even nicer!

Because I just finished my book club book (“Loving Frank“) and just had book club discussion about it last night, it was still fresh in my mind when I was reading Anna Karenina.  So my first thoughts of the book are in relation to that book and the book discussion.

How are they related, you ask?  Mamah, the ‘mistress’ in Loving Frank was a language scholar and worked as a translator.  So when I began reading AK, I thought a lot about the translators and the roles that they play in the storytelling.  I thought the description that Mamah gave to Frank about how a good translator takes not only the words but the thoughts and feelings behind the words to find the best translation was very interesting, and something that I hadn’t really thought of before this time.  Frank and Mamah worked on poetry and prose together and attempted to put out beautiful translations.

Another topic that came up in discussion last night was whether or not affairs were more or less commonplace in the past than they are today.  There were mixed feelings about it, because the stigma of divorce and societal exclusion in the past may have made illicit affairs more common.  People had to go very underground if they were pulled by a new attraction.  People married for different reasons in the past (at least in these books!), not necessarily for love, so if they felt attraction and understanding outside of their marriage it may have been not as difficult to ignore.

I’m not sure of those ramblings made much sense, but it framed the thoughts that I had while reading this first section of AK.  I thought it was interesting that it was out there for all (in the family) to know when Stiva had an affair.  No secrets kept between husband and wife alone.  Makes you wonder about their relationship in particular and marriages in general in this time, in this country, in this nobility.

Well, those are some general (not specific to Wallace’s questions today!) thoughts about week one of AK!  Yay!

Off to read!

Audiobook: My Life in France

My Life in France
I just finished listening to the audiobook as I pulled into book club (to discuss “Loving Frank“) and realized that it’s Thursday and Words and Peace has her weekly “I Love France” meme on Thursdays!  Once again I’ll participate!  So at the last minute on Thursday, I’ll post about Julia Child and her memoir about her life in France.
Listening to a book is always a much different experience than reading a book, and I think this would have been good to read.  There are recipes recited and French words and phrases spouted without definition and I think I would have taken more in with my eyes than my ears.  But I liked the general feeling that I got from the book.  I liked hearing about the love that Julia and her husband had for each other, the support that Julia got for finding her passion in cooking, and the fascinating process they went through to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published.
Now I want that cook book, although Julia realized at the time of its publishing in the 1960s that it was already pushing the limits of what the American housewife would tackle, in the time and care that the French pour into their food preparation (and eating!).  But yet the book and its successor were popular, as was the television show that she began filming.
I will have to look up episodes of her TV show and think about tackling some simple French meals!
Off to read!

Books: a Goodreads wrap-up! Four for the price of one (post!)

Simple Times by Amy Sedaris
Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People
by Amy Sedaris

3 of 5 stars

bookshelves: audiobooks

Read from September 27 to 28, 2011
You have to know what you’re getting into when you read an Amy Sedaris book. She’s really quite something. 🙂 It was a silly fun little listen.
Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell
Summer and the City (The Carrie Diaries #2)
by Candace Bushnell

5 of 5 stars
Read from September 26 to 29, 2011
What fun to spend Carrie’s first summer in NYC with her. I wonder if you have to be a total Sex and the City freak to love these books?? Hoping for another!
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Ella Minnow Pea
by Mark Dunn

4 of 5 stars
Read in October, 2011
A quaint, easy read with deep meaning. As the residents of Nollop, an island founded by the creator of the “perfect” sentence – The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog – lose the ability to use letter after letter as they fall off his statue, persecution and loss of freedoms become the norm. So the search for an even more perfect sentence is their only hope. Good stuff.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Loving Frank
by Nancy Horan

5 of 5 stars
Read in October, 2011
Wow. I have wanted to read this book for some time now, but I didn’t realize how much it would grab me! The story of the enigmatic Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress, Mamah. The sacrifices they made to be with the “real and true” love of their lives. Set between the years 1907-1914 and told mostly in Mamah’s voice, the struggles of women’s equality and what it means from person to person were highlighted. I want to know more about Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright and was happy to see “afterwards” and “acknowledgements” when I finished the book.
***This was read for book club and I can’t wait to discuss tomorrow night!