I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
by Jill Alexander Essbaum Published by Mantle
on 26th March 2015 Genres: Psychological Format:
Hardcover Source: Publisher Goodreads
Anna was a good wife, mostly...
Anna Benz lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. Anna, an American expat, has chosen this life far from home; but, despite its tranquility and order, inside she is falling apart.
Feeling adrift and unable to connect with her husband or his family; with the fellow expatriates who try to befriend her; or even, increasingly, her own thoughts and emotions. Anna attempts to assert her agency in the only way that makes sense to her: by engaging in short-lived but intense sexual affairs.
But adultery, too, has its own morality, and when Anna finds herself crossing a line, she will set off a terrible chain of events ending in unspeakable tragedy. As her life crashes down around her, Anna must then discover where one must go when there is no going back...
Marriage. Fidelity. Loneliness. Depression. Sex.
* The writing – absolutely stunning.
* The Swiss culture & language.
* The psychoanalysis.
* How uncomfortable it was to read – I loved & hated it in equal measure!
* Fans of psychological reads.
I finished this book a couple of days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s so powerful, emotional and beautifully written.
Anna Benz is a 30-something housewife living in Switzerland. She’s an American expat married to a successful Swiss banker, Bruno. On the surface Anna seems to have it all – the husband, the three children, the house, but as we all know, appearances can be deceptive.
Anna has been living in Switzerland for 9 years but has a limited command of the German language, and her Schwiizerdütsch is almost non-existent. She feels isolated and alone in a country that she doesn’t feel is home.
Struggling with depression, Anna visits an English-speaking psychoanalyst, she starts taking a German class, and she has extramarital affairs.
There is something deeply uncomfortable in the reading of this book. The narrative is broken, jumping from past to present, between sessions with the psychoanalyst to sordid affairs and family days. I really like this about the book, although it did take some getting used to. It feels like we are in Anna’s head, dissociated as she appears to be.
It’s the sign of an accomplished writer that although I disliked Anna, I found myself feeling for her. At times I wanted to hug her! To watch such self-destruction through her sordid sexual affairs can be so frustrating.
Being the linguaphile I am, I loved the incorporation of German in this book. At times I learned things, but largely I felt the inclusion of the German words and phrases added something to the reading of this book. I felt that reading words that I didn’t understand actually helped me to connect more to Anna and her trouble with speaking the language.
The psychoanalysis in this book is fantastic. It helps to create a fuller picture of Anna and an understanding of her mindset.
Then there’s the sex. There’s a lot of it in the first half of the book especially. The language and descriptions used, well it’s safe to say I’ll never look at a pocket watch or dinner knife the same way again. Anna’s attitude to sex is quite eye-opening and again the psychology of this is fascinating.
From the start this book feels like it is building up to something, but personally I had no idea what that thing might be. The crescendo is brilliant. Despite the uncomfortable nature of the reading, I felt compelled to read on, I couldn’t stop.
I was honestly lost for words when I finished this book. The beautiful writing, the emotions, the narrative journey has left me in awe. This is a debut novel, a DEBUT novel. It’s quite simply brilliant.
Hausfrau is out in hardback tomorrow, 26th March 2015. It’s available to download to your Kindle now.