Freud’s Mistress is novel about Minna Bernays’ relationship with her brother-in-law, Sigmund Freud. Readers follow Minna as she struggles to find her place in a world where she does not fit.
Minna is an intellectual woman in an age when the role of most women is to bare children and keep an orderly house. She travels from job to job as a governess or lady’s companion to the wealthy households. But, she is unsatisfied with her role and longs for something more. As a result, she represses her feelings of incompleteness with gin and cigarettes.
Finally, after losing employment yet again, Minna ends up with nowhere to turn and she takes up residence with her sister’s family helping with the children.
While there is evidence that Minna did in fact live with the Freuds for decades, it is unclear whether she and Sigmund ever actually had an affair. I know some reviewers think this is an issue. For me, it is not. This is a work of fiction and should not be taken as history. Certainly, Freud was obsessed with sex and it very well might have happened.
What keep me reading the book was the character of Minna. I found her struggle to find a role in society a more interesting story than her relationship with Freud. Additionally, the interplay between the sisters as the book goes on is clever. Does Martha (Minna’s sister) know what happened?
All in all the book was well executed and a light, entertaining read. However, readers should not confuse this for history.