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A fictionalized account of Sigmund Freud’s romantic involvement with his sister-in-law.

Mack and Kaufman (A Version of the Truth, 2007, etc.) collaborate for a third time to produce a novel based loosely on unsubstantiated conjecture that Sigmund Freud and his wife’s sister, Minna Bernays, had a love affair while living under the same roof. After being fired from yet another job as a lady’s companion, intelligent and outspoken Minna is welcomed into the chaotic Freud household. Sigmund and Martha have six children, and Martha has a variety of physical complaints, so she welcomes her sister’s help. Minna becomes intrigued with her brother-in-law’s work, and they begin to spend hours in his study discussing his theories of human behavior, which, Freud claims, have deep sexual roots that must be brought to the conscious level. Their conversations and long walks provide the catalyst for a deeper attraction, and eventually, Freud and Minna’s relationship progresses from plain kinfolk to cheating kinfolk. Is Freud really a man whose wife doesn’t understand him? Does Martha know or care that her husband’s engaged in intimate acts with her own sister? Neither spouse appears overly concerned about the activities of the other. Martha spends much of her time in an opium-induced haze (she even spoons her wonderful elixir into the kids at the first sign of illness), while Sigmund prefers to heighten his sensations with a nose full of coca, a habit he introduces to Minna, who has her own way of dealing with the world: cigarettes and secreted bottles of gin. Freud shocks the scientific community with his Studies in Hysteria, and Minna’s racked with guilt and flees to another city. But she’s soon back with the Freud family to face more affair-related crises, wonder just how much her sister knows, and do a lot more soul-searching before they all pack up and move to England. Freud’s theories about human sexuality and behavior may be considered pretty wild, but his own sex life comes across as dull.

Readers with an interest in the private life of Sigmund Freud may find the book of interest.

Pub Date: July 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-16307-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2013


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