Vienna, 1895. Minna Bernays, a laughably incompetent lady’s companion, moves in with her sister Martha and Martha’s husband, Sigmund Freud. Freud, a 39-year-old struggling professor of the fledgling field of psychotherapy, is charmed by the intellectually-minded Minna, who attends to the Freuds’ 6 children and, owing in part to her fascination with her brother-in-law’s work, begins enjoying his romantic attentionas well.
Or at least that’s how Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman tell it in their new novel, Freud’s Mistress. Whether or not Sigmund and Minna actually entered into a sexual relationship has long been debated. But a 2006 discovery of a Swiss hotel log showing that the pair once checked into a hotel room as husband and wife offers some fairly convincing evidence.
While the authors do an impressive job evoking late 19th-century Vienna, the most remarkable aspect of this novel is meeting Sigmund Freud, lover.
Can we really come to embrace the father of psychology as a character who says things like, “I will indeed unlock the mystery of your dreams. And you, my dear”? Well…now that we think about it—maybe we can.