Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman (+ #Giveaway!)

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The tragedy of loving. 
 
Synopsis of Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman: 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 two cents
Sigmund Freud
(From Wikipedia)
Everyone loves a bit of juicy gossip. Let's be honest. And with the longstanding rumour that Sigmund Freud had a mistress, then this part-fact part-fictional tale is bound to appeal to people's natural curiosity. 
I don't really know much about Freud except for what I suspect is common knowledge (like his being the father of psychoanalysis and the concepts of the id, ego and superego and how all things can be explained by something sexual). I know all this superficially and I don't really have any preconceived notions about him. 
 
His rumoured mistress is his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Apparently not much is known about her and if we're to believe the turn of events, she ended up living under the same roof as with him and her sister for most of her life. Hmm. Doesn't this sound pretty sordid?

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Martha Bernays
(From Wikipedia)
The beginning is ominous: "The season for suicides had begun," setting the tone for Minna's intellectual and societal limbo. She is let go in her employment as a lady's companion, daring to help a sick co-worker. With no real prospects, and still single at an age where women are expected to be married and with children, she finds herself as a reluctant helper in the household of her sister, Martha.

Married to the then-struggling to be recognized intellectual Sigmund, Martha meanwhile is obsessed with keeping house and taking care of the children, egged on by her habitual opiate taking. Young Minna has a natural intellectual affinity with Sigmund; she finds herself drawn to him but while fighting the urge to give in, obviously they both follow up on their feelings for each other and the whole sordid affair commences.

What stood out in my mind is how longsuffering Minna was as a lover, what a self-absorbed cad Sigmund was, and just how totally oblivious Martha was.

Ridden with guilt, Minna tries to break away. But to no avail. The affair rides itself out over the course of their lifetimes. The ending provides us the tragic picture of two women who vied for the affections of the same lover.

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What I liked: 
I think that this novel accomplishes what it set out to do: meld fact and fiction to flesh out this rumoured affair. If you're interested in the fine detail, check out the back of the book for all the juicy sources of the evidence, particularly the discovery of Minna's long-lost letters to Freud.

Even more compelling is how readers are provided insight into the Vienna of the time, the pursuit of intellectual research and discussion, and the place of women in a stringent society of class and expectation. And my goodness, the drug use that is described in this book is fascinating, as so-called "medicinal use" was the norm at the time.

I personally thought this was quite the sordid affair. It's a tragedy of how an extremely self-absorbed man comes between two sisters. While it is first and foremost a love story of sorts, it is also a story of the testing of filial love.

If you're interested in Freud as a person, this gives you a peek into his character. Depicted as brilliant, focused and passionate about his work yet totally self-absorbed and selfish that he was oblivious to his wife, and later on, to his lover. Genius always comes with a price.

While it was natural that I initially sided with Minna, I didn't like Martha's character from the onset but my view of her changed towards the end. If there's anyone longsuffering, it's Martha.

***
Uh-oh: This is a story about an affair. The title says it all. Hence the predictability; you'll get your courtship, your sexual encounter, and lots of emotional drama. But you knew that already.

Verdict: A melding of fact and fiction of the affair between Sigmund Freud and Minna Bernays, this is the tragedy of a rather twisted love story, and an even greater tragedy of filial love. Those fascinated by Freud will enjoy a peek into his lesser-known side. Those who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy the depiction of Vienna at the turn of the century. Those who dislike sordid affairs in all its sordid glory may not find this very appealing.

Some interesting articles I came across:
About Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman
Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman c. Firooz ZahediFreud’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. 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.

GIVEAWAY!
Thanks to the publishers, I have one copy to giveaway to one of you lovely folks!
(US/Can only)



Check out the rest of the tour!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.



Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (July 9, 2013)

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14 comments :

  1. Great review! I've studied Freud in school but until now I don't know a whole lot about his personal life. This novel sounds really interesting, glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for hosting this awesome giveaway :)

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    1. They say Freud is "sexy" in this ... what do the schools say? :)

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  2. I've never been overly interested in Freud, but this sounds intriguing. The situation sounds really sad for everyone but Freud. The articles look interesting, too! Great review!

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  3. I'm very intrigued by this book. thanks for the giveaway

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  4. I love his writings but knows really nothing about his life. intrigued by this book. thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. Minna and Sigmund have some interesting conversations and if you've read his work, you may find that really interesting!

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  5. Their writing is wonderful but I got bored and had to DNF it. I could't bring myself to see freud as... as he was in this book.

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    1. I just tried to think of Freud as a hunk. It's easier that way.

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  6. I love your reviews!! I'm intrigued by Freud. He seems like such a sleaze (sex-obsessed!). I'd like to see a more well-rounded version of him!

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    1. It's an interesting imagining of Freud and he does come across as slightly sleazy here. :P

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  7. I've heard such good things about this book, I'd be very excited to read it :) Thanks for the giveaway!

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  8. I can't say that I know much about Freud other than his theories but I'm intrigued by this book.

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

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  9. Thank you for this review, it sounds like a great book. I love these kind of historical novels. To be sure to get the facts right I complement with a biography on the subject. Peter Gray's might be a good one.

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