Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum (2015)
- Although Jill Alexander Essbaum if from the United States, she spent time living in Zürich, Switzerland, which loosely inspired this novel.
- She is a widely published poet, however this is her first novel.
Anna is an American wife of a Swiss banker, who has moved to Switzerland close to ten years ago. Since that time she has had three children, no job, and really no one to call a close friend, with only her psychiatrist to talk to. She is lonely and unhappy, and everything spirals from there.
First off, can I just get something off my chest? Calling a book the “next Gone Girl” or the “next Fifty Shades of Grey” really does a disservice to a book. Why not say, it’s a book for FANS of Gone Girl, as this eliminates direct comparison. And for reals, I don’t even see all that much in common with this book and Gone Girl, other than the fact it’s about an unhappily married woman. End rant.
I could tell immediately upon starting this novel, that Essbaum is poet. The attention to each specific word, as well as the way they sound when read together makes for a great reading experience. The lady knows how to write, that’s for sure!
I found the story completely compelling, and the pacing was perfection. There were enough details to give depth, yet the plot clipped along at a nice pace. I’ve read so many big books lately, and this was exactly what I needed.
Anna is an intriguing and complex character. She is clearly unhappy in her life, and compartmentalizes various aspects to, essentially, make it through the day. She is oddly overly reflective, yet at the same time detached from her own life, which creates this great push and pull of her character throughout the story. She is pretty unlikable in most ways, yet I felt deep empathy for her, despite her many flaws. Many of her actions, though not justifiable, are completely understandable coming from her character.
The story is told in third person, yet we, as the reader, were privy to Anna’s internal thoughts, so it was somewhat told in the first person as well. Additionally, there were parts occurring in the present, far past, and more recent past, as well as parts from Anna’s time with her psychiatrist, all gelled together with little segue way, yet it all worked so well without being confusing.
The ending… I won’t say much, but whew! It gave me the CHILLS from head to toe at the end of that final sentence. It was the culmination of a perfect storm of events, and had one thing gone differently… who knows.
Rating: [4/5 stars]
Looking For More:
- Huffington Post – They were upset by the whole Fifty Shades/Gone Girl comparison as well.
- Backlist Books‘ review here, where she excellently describes Essbaum’s “literary tricks” used to tell a compelling story.
- An in depth and interesting discussion of Anna as a main protagonist here from Catherine over at The Gilmore Guide to Books.
- Lastly, the lovelies over at the newly minted The Socratic Salon plan to discuss Hausfrau this week, and I. CAN’T. WAIT.
On pins and needles over here, ready to have a full blown, spoilery discussion over at The Socratic Salon later this week, but in the meantime, have you read this? What do you think of Anna? Can you enjoy a book with an unlikable character?