ISBN Freud’s Mistress
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In fin-de-siècle Vienna, it was not easy for a woman to find fulfillment both intellectually and sexually.
But many believe that Minna Bernays was able to find both with one man—her brother-in-law, Sigmund Freud.
At once a portrait of two sisters—the rebellious, independent Minna and her inhibited sister, Martha—and of the compelling and controversial doctor who would be revered as one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, Freud's Mistress is a novel rich with passion and historical detail and "a portrait of forbidden desire [with] a thought-provoking central question: How far are you willing to go to be happy?”*
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The season for suicides had begun.
The young woman sat at the writing desk by the window and dipped her pen into black ink. It scratched across the paper like a raven s claw. Outside, the sky was ashen gray. Since early November, the air had been bitter cold, and patches of ice had spread over the breadth of the Danube. Soon the river would be frozen solid until spring. Just the other week, she had read in the Salonblatt about a wealthy young aristocrat, dressed in bridal gown and veil, who jumped her steed off Kronprinz-Rudolf Bridge. The beautiful filly sank like a stone, and the woman s body washed up on the shore, shrouded in white satin.
She never thought it would come to this, but now here she was, at her sister s mercy, asking for help. She finished the letter at dawn, just as the bells of St. Stephen s rang out across the city. She sealed the envelope and placed it in the letter box outside the front door. She would remember this day. It was the beginning.
TWO DAYS EARLIER
The sky was raining ice, but the woman hurrying down the boulevard wore no coat or hat. She was carrying a bundle wrapped in stiff, coarse blankets, and the heavy load hampered her gait, causing her to favor one leg, then the other. Strands of long, wet hair lashed across her mouth and eyelids, and every few minutes she would pause, shifting the weight of her bundle onto one arm and hip, and exposing her free hand to brush the sleet off her face.
She crossed the Ringstrasse the broad, tree-lined avenue that circled Vienna then passed a row of massive apartment buildings, their exteriors casting glazed shadows on the cobblestones. The storm was getting worse, a constant downpour. Blinded by the wet, she continued on, splashing through puddles in her good leather boots, crossing Schwarzenbergplatz, the invisible boundary between the aristocracy and everyone else. A few hundred yards away, a row of opulent homes blazed with lights.
Earlier, in her haste to leave, she couldn t be bothered to run upstairs to get her woolen overcoat and gloves, and now she sorely regretted this rash decision. She was chilled to the bone. Idiot, she thought. My boots are ruined.
She slowed her pace and swept through the ornamental iron gates of the baroness s residence, heading around back to the servants entrance. She rang the night bell and then knocked loudly, cursing softly and swaying with impatience. Open the damn door. There was a dull, aching pain in her side as a gust of icy wind drove her slightly off balance. She shifted the load over her shoulder, her fingers throbbing as she pounded on the door.
When the night maid finally appeared, Minna brushed past her in a fury. Took bloody long enough, she thought, but murmured a perfunctory Good evening and descended a dimly lit stairway to the basement kitchen. She carefully placed her bundle on a cot near the Beast, the enormous black furnace by the scullery. A frail, drowsy child emerged from the blankets and sat there silently as Minna pushed the cot closer to the furnace, slid the thin mattress back on its frame, and settled the child beneath a feeble candle flickering on a wooden shelf.
Fräulein Bernays, you re wanted upstairs. The mistress has been ringing for over an hour, the night maid said, adjusting her starched white cap. Everyone suffers when you run about . . . she added, sighing heavily as she bent over and wiped a mud print from the stairs. I told the mistress you went for a walk, but she wasn t having any of it, said you must have gone somewhere . . .
If you must know, we ve been out gargling gin. Haven t we, Flora?
Yes, Fräulein, Flora said, with a weak smile. And then we went to the doctor.R
It s a fascinating story told in an utterly compelling fashion. . . . A wonderful, engaging, and bittersweet novel. I absolutely loved it. Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
Delicious . . . Will enthrall readers. People (4 stars)
Absorbing and provocative . . . A great read . . . I ve been recommending it to friends. Erica Jong, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Book groups looking for a great selection? Look no more! This is Sigmund Freud like we ve never known him. Insecure, passionate, even sexy. Who knew? Esmeralda Santiago, New York Times bestselling author of Conquistadora
It is almost impossible to pass up a novel inspired by Sigmund Freud s rumored affair with his sister-in-law. This is a story that will appeal to the Pleasure Principle of many a reader. Whitney Otto, author of Eight Girls Taking Pictures and How to Make an American Quilt
A compelling story . . . Vividly creates not just the world in which Freud and Minna and Martha lived, but the inner life and emotions of Minna as well. Orange County Register
An intriguing, illuminating, and wholly engrossing account of the affair between Sigmund Freud and his headstrong, intelligent sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman render fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Freud household so vividly one can almost smell the coal fires and cigar smoke. Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln s Dressmaker
What a wow of a novel . . . Irresistible. Liz Smith