A few months ago, I entered the Litwits in TLC Book Tour’s monthly book club giveaway contest and we won 10 free copies of Freud’s Mistress! The ladies and I were so excited. Winning stuff always makes you feel like a winner, ya know? What I didn’t expect was how many members would join us in our reading despite not having received a free copy!! On Sunday, we finally met to discuss what we thought of this historical fiction story – the first historical fiction novel for me in quite some time.
Freud’s Mistress is a novel co-authored by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman chronicling the supposed affair between Sigmund Freud and Minna Bernays – sister to his wife, Martha Bernays Freud. The story follows Minna’s life at the close of the 19th Century as she approached the spinster age of 30 without having married, instead choosing to offer herself as a ladies maid to well-to-do women or darling Aunt and caregiver to her many nephews and nieces. Along with the juiciness of the affair, the reader also receives a first hand glance into Freud’s mind as he discusses his research and developing psychological theories with Minna.
Overall, the ladies of my book club were ‘meh’ on Freud’s Mistress. Most everyone finished the book and noted how easy it was to keep the pages turning, but we weren’t left satisfied. We hoped for a different ending for Minna – something away from Freud and her sister. Minna could have been this amazing woman, but ultimately, couldn’t escape her ideal of Freud or the restrictions placed on women by the time period. I think we’d all hoped the book would have something greater to say than that Minna had had an affair with a creepy douchebag. But it didn’t.
Some ladies really enjoyed Mack and Kaufman’s sense of place. The setting in Austria and Germany during the turn of the century was well done. These authors can definitely write a beautiful passage and their ideas flowed seamlessly together – I never felt like I was reading two competing voices. The Litwits were disappointed at the lack of plotting and weird pacing. The middle dragged. Once the affair had begun, it felt like the story had nowhere to go.
Under scrutiny, Freud’s Mistress might not hold up all that well, but if you just want a good, gossipy novel about Minna Bernays and Sigmund Freud – this is your book, for sure! You could probably read this one in a day or two, and I think most historical fiction readers can find something to enjoy within its pages. Plus, our group found plenty to talk about and discuss so this could be an excellent book club read if you’re looking for one!