Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
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. 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…
First Impressions: I didn’t really enjoy the first two chapters of this novel. I found the story and main character to be too cold and clinical. However, Marina Sofia wrote a wonderful review of this novel. She approached it from the perspective of the expat detail. I gave the novel a second go, looking at it through this lense, and I am really glad I did!
Highlights: This is in a completely different league to Gone Girl. I was really invested in this story by the end. Anna’s agony felt so real my heart was almost breaking too. I could feel her pain and tried not to dwell on things too much otherwise I would have shed a tear, I am sure! I thought the expat observations were accurate, particularly the awkwardness of putting out an olive branch and starting new friendships with someone who superficially you have little in common. As for Anna’s affairs, I didn’t necessarily think the impetus behind her actions was strong enough but the passivity of her character was believable and not as annoying as I would have assumed. I would have liked to learn more about her formative years in America. I think I like the ending and it does seem fitting to the circularity of the story.
If I was an editor: I’d have a good think about whether the fragments from the psychologist sessions that intersperse the story are really necessary. For me, I don’t think they added much to the story but I did like the fragments from the German classes. I found some of the plot devices a bit predictable but there’s only so much scope in a story like this I guess. Anna’s relationship with Bruno seems so distant it’s a wonder they even orbit the same family life. However, they were obviously drawn to each other for various reasons and each to their own! Perhaps Bruno’s story would be good for a sequel, Werktatige.
Overall: What’s German for torment?
Hausfrau: 4 stars
Here is a link to The Expat Experience, a review post I wrote in 2013.
Thank you to Sam Eades at Pan Macmillan for a copy of the title to review.
5 thoughts on “German for Homemaker: Hausfrau”
Quälen is torture – the closest I could find! Yes Marina’s review was excellent as she could use her personal experience to look at Anna’s life with more understanding of the expat experience. I must read this. Another great review. I’ve read such mixed thoughts on this book! Time to decide for myself!
Thanks for that Crimeworm 🙂
I don’t know if you’ve read this yet (don’t think I’ve seen a review) but I think you would enjoy this one. Will pop over to your blog and find out…
I haven’t, yet – I’ve committed myself to trying to read all 18 of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year books by June 18th (shortlist day), and with them and a couple of blog tours I’m a bit overwhelmed. But I definitely intend to – I have to, to discover why it’s provoked such extreme reactions! I saw Orange Pekoe tea mentioned somewhere totally random, maybe an interview, and I had a little smile at the thought of your blog! x
Are you a crazy lady – all 18??!! 🙂
I can usually get through 4 in a shortlist of 6 before I peter out… Haven’t touched a longlist (unless specific titles interest me).
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