“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