Reviews

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published March 17th, 2015 by Random House
Hardcover; 324 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Birthday Gift / Part of the Reading My Shelves Challenge
Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.47
My Rating: ★★★

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. [via Goodreads]


Okay, Hausfrau. Here we go.

Some people enjoyed this novel immensely and others did not. I think I fell somewhere in the middle. My dislike of the character was not what made me not like the book, however. And, I can tell you why I didn’t like the character. She hit too close to home and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t her actions that I didn’t like. It was her inaction–her passivity. She was so okay with being everyone’s piece of carpet to walk on, even if she wasn’t 100% sure she wanted it.

I have been where Anna has been to some extent. I have not been married, I don’t have children and I’ve not had an affair with anyone while in a long term relationship. However, I’ve been there emotionallyI’ve felt listless and empty and looked toward others to help me figure out what it was I needed to fix myself. I’ve looked to others to care for me because I couldn’t figure out how to care for myself or what I was doing wrong. Let’s just say I can relate. I have been in a foreign place with my significant other where I felt like a stranger and they felt completely at home. I’ve felt that neglect and absence of affection but not necessarily mistreatment from a significant other. I have felt so lost and so confused about what I wanted that I thought if someone saw me naked they  might be able to see right to the core of me and tell me how to get help. But, that’s never worked.

Where I think the book differs from real life is the therapy. It was outdated, period. As someone that majored in psychology and neuroscience it was antiquated theory this physician was working off of and I would venture to say it bordered on malpractice. It worked to set the story up for where it was going, yes. But, the likelihood of that being how Anna would be treated is minimal. That is my greatest dislike for the book–the therapy or the lack thereof. Jung was no doubt an important post-Freudian figure but for a book that was released in a time of the main characters having cell phones and whatnot, it seems an unlikely treatment option. There, I’ve said my piece on it.

Basically, Anna is depressed. She struggles with her daily life and finds a way to help herself manage it. Except her self imposed therapy causes more problems and more conflict for herself and her family.

I still have mixed emotions about the entire thing. But, of course, I won’t give any spoilers here. However, if you’ve read the book and don’t mind some spoilers then feel free to check out the discussion over at The Socratic Salon. These ladies lead a wonderful discussion on the novel.

Jill Alexander Essbaum has written other books such as The Devastation, Harlot, and Heaven.

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6 thoughts on “Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

  1. Wow, thank you for such an insightful review! I haven’t read Hausfrau but the therapy aspect you mentioned has certainly increased my interest. Have you read Anna Karenina? It has kind of the same subject matter but is very well written.

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  2. The depression Anna felt was palpable and i didn’t like reading it because it was so real, but i think Essbaum did a great job of making it real. I agree, the therapy was stunningly awful, but narratively it served a purpose.

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  3. Thanks for sharing how you personally related to the book :) I agree that her therapist’s actions felt unrealistic; what therapist would yell at their patient to go away when she is clearly in crisis?!

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    1. I was so appalled by that! I kept thinking surely there was some assistant in that office somewhere that would bring her in and help wrap up the current appointment but no. :( I really hope that isn’t how things are done over there!

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  4. Ugh. I’m so afraid I won’t like this book. I really appreciate your perspective, so I’ll keep it in mind when/if I read it.

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