At the recommendation of one of my stellar coworkers, I recently read Hausfrau (DB 81071)by Jill Alexander Essbaum.
And now I want everyone to read it.
I can’t stop talking about it; I can’t help but force its relevance into every conversation I have.
And now, worst of all, I’m afraid to read another book for fear that it simply won’t stack up.
Called a “contemporary Madame Bovary,” Hausfrau (“Housewife” in German) combines themes of commitment, independence, infidelity, identity, family, feminism, freedom, friendship, love, morality, motherhood, psychoanalysis, shadow, shame, secrets, and surrender, all wrapped up in a spellbinding package of poetic wordplay (“Grief that finds no relief in tears makes other organs weep”).
The brilliance of Anna—the book’s main character—lies in her oft-relatable, isolated, unfulfilling life as a thirty-something wife and mother in Switzerland, the unfamiliar home country of her husband. She compartmentalizes the many secret lives she leads in order to cope with her situation. Meanwhile, we readers stand by helplessly as these lives slowly begin to intersect, disintegrate, and ultimately, collapse.
More than anything, Hausfrau is a novel about heartbreak and the decisions that can lead to it:
“Think of your life as a long line of dominos,” Anna is advised.
“Every domino is a choice. Our lives are cause and effect. Even the smallest choices matter.”
Hausfrau: A Novel
Anna Benz, an American expatriate married to a Swiss banker, passes her days in near isolation, caring for her children and having affairs. She begins therapy with Doktor Messerli, who recommends she finally take classes in Swiss German. She uses the classes as a hunting ground for new lovers. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.