source: free review copy courtesy of Library Thing
author: Jill Alexander Essbaum
published: ARC March 24, 2015
first line: Anna was a good wife, mostly.
rated: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Anna was a good wife, mostly. For readers of The Girl on the Train and The Woman Upstairs comes a striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning.
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.
But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.
Author Jill Alexander Essbaum is a new to me author and I am glad I discovered her work. She is a poet which does not surprise me as Hausfrau reads like poetry at times, the narrative flows beautifully.
At the heart of this emotional and sad story is Anna, a thirty-something married mother of three who is her own worst enemy in many ways. I read Hausfrau intermittently over the course of about two weeks. I could not sit and read for too long at a time. It was a somber book and Anna’s sadness just flows throughout these pages.
The narrative goes from past to present and back again through Anna’s life. She is an American housewife married to her Swiss husband Bruno and living in Zurich. She is not happy living in a foreign country but is taking classes to learn German.
Anna sees a psychiatrist named Doktor Messerli. In between her current life and her flashbacks are conversations with the Doktor, whom I liked. The advice she gives Anna as well as the way she would get her to open up were interesting.
Anna however, finds solace for her loneliness in a series of extramarital affairs. At times reading this was like watching a train wreck, you don’t want to see but you cannot look away.
Anna creates such a mess of her life and I wondered how it would turn out for her. She and Bruno do not have a good relationship, there are emotionally distant from each other. She finds a best friend in German class, Mary, who tries to be there for her through painful times but Anna is detached from everyone. Her depression leads to despair in all areas of her life.
It is possible to lead several lives at once.
In fact, it is impossible not to.
p.159, Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
As Anna attempts to live her life, all she does is continuously lie. Some scenes were even humorous in a dark way because she was so paranoid about what others knew or suspected.
Anna herself is an unlikeable character. Aside from her extramarital affairs, she does not show passion for much else and this is shown early on in the story. Her affairs are what we see on the surface but the author takes us deeper into this woman’s depression. It really was an uncomfortable read and one that unsettled me. Like I mentioned before, the authors writing is beautiful, she tells a sad story with much grace.
This is delusional grief. This is hysterical grief. Run if you will, this grief is faster. This is the grief that will chase you and beat you.
This is the grief that will eat you.
This was a thought provoking read and a glimpse into this depressed individuals life. The ending left me wondering about what would become of Anna. It is one of those endings that is up to the reader to imagine what might come next.
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My free review copy of Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum arrived via LibraryThing.
The book photo above is my own and is not to be removed from this post.