cover image Freud’s Mistress

Freud’s Mistress

Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman. Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, $25.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-16307-4

A portrait of forbidden desire based on historical speculations, Mack and Kaufman’s thoroughly researched novel explores the difficult moral questions that can arise from adultery. It all begins in 1895 at Berggasse 19 in Vienna, an apartment that’s home to Sigmund and Martha Freud, their six children, and the household’s latest addition, Minna Bernays, Martha’s sister, who’s in between jobs. In contrast to her hypochondriac domestic sister, Minna is an unmarried, intellectually inclined “bibliomaniac,” and is stimulated, rather than repulsed, by Sigmund’s research—especially his controversial theories about sexuality. Minna happily strokes her brother-in-law’s ego in drug-fueled late-night discussions of philosophy, his patients’ sexual traumas, and his own difficult marriage. When Minna finally comes to terms with her attraction to the charismatic Sigmund, she tries to resist these dangerous impulses, only to fall into a passionate affair after an improbably romantic overture from the father of psychoanalysis. Minna grapples with the “burden of betrayal” and Sigmund’s cunning rationalizations while trying to answer this novel’s clichéd but nonetheless thought-provoking central question: how far are you willing to go to be happy? Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (July)