Last week I raced through the hyped Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. From Goodreads:
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno 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 into with an ease that surprises even her. 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’s no going back.
I’m so glad I got to this before I saw the “Madam Bovary meets 50 Shades” promo line. I would have never picked it up! Hausfrau is already a hot book this year, with tons of great topics for discussion. There’s no “ah-ha!” big reveal moment of the reasoning behind Anna’s behavior, but there is a healthy dose of tension throughout, a few shocking plot points, and the final third of the book—omg. I just couldn’t even hardly put it down by then.
Anna… I felt for her. She suffers. Her actions and indiscretions obviously point to more than sheer boredom. Depression is serious business. And her marriage is depressing. She has few friends and no one really understands her, even her therapist or her super-nice-to-an-annoying-fault classmate Mary. Essbaum’s poetic writing brought out the utter hopelessness in Anna. She’s very humanly flawed, and seemingly ill-equipped to help herself out of the quicksand of lies she herself created. It’s really a bleak whirlpool right up to the end into which I was completely drawn. Ahh, this book broke my heart and I loved it.
If you’ve read Hausfrau, I recommend heading over to the Socratic Salon for an in-depth, SPOILER-FULL discussion. No spoilers here on my blog, but one item that intrigued me over there was the query, “What if Anna had been a man?” Because I agree—it wouldn’t be the hyped, provocative, “shocking” (although I wasn’t particularly shocked) novel that it’s been branded if the main character was a man. Makes you think!
Read from April 13 to 21, 2015.