Hausfrau - A Novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Publishing Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 320 pages
Contemporary Women Literary Fiction
The Premise: "Anna was a good wife, mostly" (3). The novel begins with this statement which immediately draws the reader in. Despite the pretty cover, I knew that going into this book I would be in for quite a few surprises. The novel follows Anna Benz, who is an American currently living in Switzerland with her husband, Bruno and their three young children. Sounds about perfect right? Unfortunately that is not the case. Anna is quite unhappy inside and she finds it difficulty to place where her "discontent" is coming from, and she tries to indulge in other experiences that might help with her situation. She attends German language classes and visits a therapist weekly and then begins to enter in a series of affairs. Like most stories that follow this storyline, things do escalate and the reader follows along to see if Anna can resolve everything or will everything come tumbling down for her.
My overall thoughts and review: When I was looking for some reviews on this book, a few statements about this book being called the Modern Day Anna Karenina leaped out at me. I love that book so much and I really enjoy modern-day retellings. I knew that going into this book, I would be in for surprises, I just didn't anticipate how much in detail things would go. The author paints for us the full picture and in between all the scenes, there are scenes with Anna and her therapist which really shape things into perspective. I was also intrigued by the way the narrative jumped from the present time to previous events. Although, it was clear from the start how it would end, the book still kept me on the edge of my seat with each decision Anna made. Because I'm studying the unconscious in my work, when Anna and her therapist were discussing dreams particularly interesting - it definitely reminded me of Sigmund Freud's Essay Civilization and Its Discontents, in terms of how her therapist was telling her that: "It's quite common for the subconscious to create intentional scenarios that force you to face something you've been ignoring. Your dream might get louder and more violent. You may become forgetful or accident-prone. Psyche will do anything to get your attention. She will sabotage your consciousness if she must" (201) - this speaks exactly to Anna's situation. Her feelings of discontent in her life and marriage are starting to escalate and therefore, it is coming through in her actions and she can no longer keep her discontent confined to her internal life. Bottom line - I LOVED this book. The story was interesting, Essbaum's writing was just phenomenal and her craftsmanship of piecing together the narrative was done masterfully. I think if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl or Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train (you can read my full review here), this is definitely the book you should pick up next.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)
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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Random House Canada for consideration/review. All opinions are my own.