From Publishers Weekly
Paris-based psychiatrist and novelist Rosen writes in her postface that she wanted to bring Freud's spouse into the light, to "oblige Martha to emerge from obscurity." Her novel, an uncredited translation from the French, is epistolary, presenting a correspondence between the elderly Mrs. Freud (née Bernays, 1861–1951) and a fictional American biographer, Mary Huntington-Smith. At first reluctant, Rosen's Martha eventually comes around and freely associates about her childhood as an Orthodox Jew in Germany, her protracted courtship with the passionate and often jealous Sigi, and—at least according to this author—her frustrating marriage. Rosen's Freud did not want an intellectual partner in a wife; rather he required "patience, calm and kindness." Martha's role was supplanted over time by a series of family members and colleagues (sister Minna Bernays, Carl Jung as a student, daughter and intellectual heir Anna Freud). Rosen spends much time imagining the marriage's lost intimacy. (Martha reveals that after the birth of their sixth and final child, abstinence was their method of contraception.) Rosen's work is heavily researched but marred (at least in this translation) by stilted diction and the occasional anachronism. Clear but not inspiring, it reveals a retiring and submissive woman of her time, one who longed in vain for her famous husband's affections and for mental stimulation. (Oct.)
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*Starred Review* In this compelling and painstakingly researched novel, Rosen, a psychiatrist herself, delivers an intimate and telling fictional portrait of Sigmund Freud, as seen through the eyes of his wife, Martha. Rosen allows Freud's aging widow to turn the tables on her famous husband by retrospectively analyzing the twists in the psyche that dominated her life for more than five decades. Through private recollection and through increasingly revelatory letters to an American correspondent, Martha begins to piece together the scattered memories of a marital life often made difficult by the unacknowledged dark spots in her husband's powerful mind. Bit by bit, this long-overawed wife starts to discern the evidence of an irrational mysticism lacing her husband's science; of a curious vulnerability to superstition permeating his hostility to all religion, especially his inherited Judaism; and of a gargantuan ego that resented the slightest show of autonomy by colleagues or family members. But as Martha gropes her way through cloudy memories--innocent of any of the psychoanalytic theories incubated under her roof--it is not finally her husband but herself who comes into focus: a woman whose real talent and intellect were denied any expression by a tyrant who styled himself a revolutionary. A historical novel of exceptional power. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved