Thursday, June 13, 2013

Freud's Mistress, by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

As an unmarried woman of a certain age, Minna needed to earn a living as a ladies' companion or some similar occupation, but when she is relieved of her post, she has no choice but to go live with her sister, Martha, and her brother in law, Sigmund.  As in, Sigmund Freud.  As Herr Doctor Freud is in the midst of his life's work, he begins a passionate affair with his sister in law.  Is Martha aware of this affair?  If Minna must choose between her sister and her lover, who will she choose?

I have to admit, I was completely swept up in this book.  While Freudian theories are no longer in vogue, I have always found them fascinating, and wondered how much of Freud's personal life factored into his work.  I was fascinated by the descriptions of various medical treatments, both for physical ailments and mental health issues, used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It really makes you appreciate how far medical science has come, but also how much we were aware of, even so long ago.  I had to giggle at the scenes about cocaine use, particularly how Freud called it harmless and impossible to become addicted.  

I really loved the writing in this book.  As with all historical fiction, a lot of liberty was taken with the storyline, I am sure, but I was really enraptured with Minna and Sigmund's characters.  Freud was really written exactly as I would have imagined he would be, and even though he was infuriating, I was really drawn to him.  But I was really enamorate of Minna as a character.  I love that she really pushes back against Victorian female stereotypes.  She refuses to marry out of necessity.  She drinks.  She is an intellectual.  I would bet anything that she would have been a feminist, despite the fact that she falls prey to Freud's spell.

The book does a great job of weaving both fact and fiction into the overall tapestry of the story.  It will appeal to fans of historical fiction, but also to students of psychology, to learn a bit more about Freud from a human perspective, even if it is fictional.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review.

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