Hausfrau opens with the pregnant line "Anna was a good wife, mostly." Even if I hadn't known that the author is a poet before beginning, two pages in I would have been able to discern that fact. It demands to be read slowly, both for the imagery to sink in like lead weights and for Anna's loneliness and despair to surround ourselves.
Anna has lived her life, or shall I say let her life been led, by all the men that accompany it. Her husband proposes because he figures she'd make a fine wife, and Anna agrees that he will do as a husband. Their children are born with little planning, she spends her days mulling around Zurich speaking little of the language, and her affairs begin and end because Anna figures, 'why not?' She is living on the backbone of memories of her very first affair and is chasing fleeting highs. The juxtaposition of the unraveling and chaos of Anna's life is punctuated by psychoanalytic introspection with her therapist and the teaching of the harsh native Swiss tongue.
Each page, chapter, and month is like a house of cards, we know it's only a matter of time until Anna's mundane life implodes in on itself. Like the domino effect, it coaxes readers into thinking about each of every action having a reaction. It's both incredibly sad and equally as important. I know this story will stay with me for a long time to come.
“Madame Bovary meets Fifty Shades of Grey.”*
Anna was a good wife, mostly. For readers of The Girl on the Train and The Woman Upstairs comes a striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning—“a modern-day Anna Karenina tale.”**
ONE OF THE HUFFINGTON POST’S MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2015
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.
But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.
Intimate, intense, and written with the precision of a Swiss Army knife, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, morality, and most especially self. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying heroine whose passions and choices readers will debate with recognition and fury. Her story reveals, with honesty and great beauty, how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.