Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

It's hard to read a book when the main character is unlikeable and unsympathetic.  Hausfrau is one of those books that sucks you in even as you wonder aloud "Why am I reading this book?!"  

Anna Benz is an American living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband Bruno and her three children:  Victor, Charlie, and baby Polly Jean.  She's lived there for 9 years, and still doesn't drive and struggles with the language.  

Anna also has lots of affairs with pretty much every man she meets, and is extremely unhappy in her life.  It's a head scratcher, to be sure.  She's got a husband who loves her, three great kids, and a pretty sweet life.  But she's not happy, and Anna really has never been happy her whole life.  A past affair looms large in her mind as her perfect love.  But was it, or is she projecting too much on a brief affair that ended years ago?  And what exactly is she so darn unhappy about?

I can tell you Anna is not someone you really care about.  She acts without thinking about the consequences, and wanders through her days in a fog.  She sees a therapist, who struggles with Anna to find a breakthrough.  And Anna plays her part, pasting a smile on her face, and going through her life unable to share any of her secrets with anyone around her.  Not even her therapist knows what Anna's been up to in her life.  

It's inevitable that Anna is on a collision course, but as the reader, you have no idea what or when.  You just know it's coming, and you can't put down the book until you find it.  And it's a doozy.  Maybe, at the end, you shut the book and think, "Well, I saw that coming from the beginning."  And maybe you won't.  I'll say the last half of the book is particularly sad as Anna deals with the inevitable crumbling of herself and her life.  I was surprised at how much the last part of Anna's story affected me emotionally.  It was, quite simply, painfully heartbreaking.  

Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster ride.  Love Anna, hate Anna, understand or not, Anna's journey as a hausfrau is one you will want to discuss with others.  It would make an excellent reading group pick.  

Rating:  8/10 for a main character that will force you to engage in her life whether you care for her or not.  Some graphic sexual language, but it fits into the scheme of this novel.  The end will haunt you.  

Available in hardcover and e-book.


  1. Hmm, I haven't read this novel yet... But it is on my reading wishlist. I didn't know much about it until I read your review of Hausfrau and now I'm not sure I want to read it anymore. I don't like main characters that are unlikable and books that are too much of an emotional roller coaster.

    1. It is definitely a hard book to get through, but worthy of discussion. So many layers to it! I like to read books that shake me out of my usual reading pattern and this one did that for sure.

  2. Perhaps Anna is this generations Madame Bovary.....What do you think Sue?


  3. I think it's interesting to read about a character we can not like. I find that fascinating sometimes, but also difficult like you said!

  4. I genuinely liked Anna and the fact that she was so unsympathetic and unlikeable; I guess that was part of the appeal, anyway. Hausfrau is my favourite book from 2015 so far, and I do agree that the ending is haunting! It is as if it cannot get worse and somehow in Hausfrau it still does!