A Review: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Shame on me. I got an ARC of this novel months ago and am just now getting around to saying a thing or two about it. Honestly, with the conversation about the novel over at The Socratic Salon is it even necessary for me to review?
Yeah, I guess I'll still add my two cents.
Anna Benz is an American expat living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband, Bruno, and their three children. Anna's life is, to put it bluntly, monotonous, and she's drowning in depression. Add a couple of affairs to the mix and she's basically a train wreck you can't help but watch.
I'm just going to come right out and say that I hated Hausfrau initially. And I honestly don't think I'd go back and reread. However, if you've taken the time to review the conversation over at The Socratic Salon (expect spoilers), you might have totally different feelings going into it/another read. Anyway, back to my thoughts... I found Anna insufferable (p.s. there are plenty of novels I've loved that didn't have the most loving protagonist). And while much of her story relies on her actions caused by very apparent mental health issues, I found she lacked something that prompted any sympathy on my part. I know there are readers who will condemn this review for even saying it, and I also know that everyone deals with depression in their own way, but there were too many things about Anna that seemed too selfish and reckless to overlook despite these problems. Her allusions to her life prior to moving to Switzerland, a place she very much feels out of place but doesn't assert herself to counter, suggested that she had always suffered in some way but simply went along with it rather than acknowledge it. Furthermore, you have to imagine that Bruno and Anna were happy at some time, but those memories never surface. With that being said, I do understand that someone as depressed as Anna wouldn't necessarily be recalling those moments, but it was still infuriating to see her subconsciously recognize her problem and then bring three children into the world. And let's not even talk about Bruno, ok? That guy. Ugh. Anyway, I was a little peeved with the fact that she had waited so long to seek help, and then finally did but visited a Jungian therapist who seemed to never actually get anywhere with her or be asking her questions that would actually matter. I can't claim to know anything about Jungian psychology, so I'll leave it at that, but I will warn readers that there are whole pages dedicated to Anna at her appointments where the Jungian analysis bored me to no end. FYI: I loved the idea of psychology courses in college but actually hated them once enrolled so maybe I'm not the best judge.
I'm going to say read it if you like Jungian psychology, if you enjoy graphic scenes of what seems like painful sex, if you want to feel like you're in a Swiss village, if you love a good twist, if you're into watching someone basically destroy their future. I'm being dramatic. While Hausfrau certainly won't be regarded one of my reads of the year, Essbaum has a way with words, and her characters are believable. You might not love Anna, but you'll at least hope that she can find something to help make her whole by the end of it.
Moment of Truth
I definitely requested this book because of the cover art. LOOK AT IT! So beautiful. You're free to judge me now. P.S. You can watch the coolest video of the design process for this title: Illustrated Hausfrau Video