Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

I have been waiting patiently for this book from my local library and picked it up last night.  I put aside the mystery I was reading and dove into it.  In a word, compelling, I stayed up and finished it in one sitting. The book follows a woman’s spiral into making a trainwreck of her life (see what I did there?  I kind of punny, trains are a recurring image in the book.)

Anna is an expat wife of a Swiss banker.  She has been living in Switzerland for 9 years now, but has not even come close to making it her home.  She lives as an old day Hausfrau (housewife) not working, no money of her own, no bank account, and even no driver’s license.  She gives the impression of being completely passive just drifting along at the behest of her husband, his mother, and her children.  Her husband, Bruno, finally fed up with her detachment sends her to a therapist, who then becomes a major character in the book, more important really than Bruno.  The therapist treads along the Jungian and Freudian philosphies, which basically means a lot of talking about nothing, however she does make Anna attempt to learn German after living in Switzerland for 9 years so she can actually hope to communicate regularly with other human beings. The current driving to Anna’s downfall is her serial infidelity.  She engages in multiple affairs and yet still seems detached from it all. I have seen Anna described as heroic and I really don’t get that description at all.  Narcisstic, manipulative, dishonest, disconnected, yes.  Heroic, no.

The  book is well written and you can see that the author’s background in poetry comes through in the writing.  As a character study of Anna, this is well done and engaging.  You spend a lot of time in Anna’s head and even in her dreams, while the rest of the characters are just sketches.  I didn’t really like the way the character ended up.  Very frustrating that she would just allow it to happen, but I do know women like that, so I cannot say that it isn’t realistic.

I enjoyed this and would recommend it to people who enjoy character studies.


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