Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

I get a bit bossy when I really, really, really love a book. I also find it difficult to put that love into words when all I really want to say is “Just read it”. So, in the case of Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, I’m letting the bossy takeover.

DO applaud the designers who came up with the covers for the various editions – sublime.


DO marvel at the killer opening line – “Anna was a good wife, mostly.”

DON’T read too many reviews (there are spoilers lurking at every turn).

DO fall in love with Essbaum’s writing – she has the precision of a Swiss clock – crisp and elegant, not a single superfluous word. But it’s also a novel of great intricacy – small details provide a dramatic cumulative effect.

“In the short, sharp span of a single heartbeat, she knew that nothing she’d ever said or done, and nothing she would ever say or do again, would carry even half the tragedy of this.”

DON’T be put off by the jumping back and forth in time. Anna’s life is punctuated by visits to her psychoanalyst and her German language class – it’s hard to believe that Jung together with verb conjunctions could be used to structure a story but Essbaum does it and it’s genius.

DO admire the clever ‘contrasts’ that Essbaum has woven into every element of the story –

“Switzerland is an insular country, sealed at its boundaries and neutral by choice for two centuries. With its left hand it reaches out to refugees and seekers of asylum. With its right, it snatches freshly laundered monies and Nazi gold… And like the landscape upon which they’ve settles, the Swiss themselves are closed at their edges.”

DON’T hate Anna too early in the book. True, she’s not terribly likeable but… Just read it, okay?

DO be amazed by the fact that a book that is so bloody depressing is also a book that you simply can’t put down.

DO wonder what drugs a particular reviewer was smoking when they said this book was “Madame Bovary meets Fifty Shades of Grey.” I actually find it offensive to mention this book and FSoG in the same sentence.

5/5 Fairly sure that this will be nominated for (and win) #ALLTHEPRIZES this year.

I received my copy of Hausfrau from the publisher, Random House via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

“Bruno’s proposal may have been matter-of-fact, but Anna said yes without hesitation. The orchard air was peaceful. The sky was promising. The apples introduced the possibility of joy. She remembered the all: Honeycrisp, Honey Sweet, Golden Supreme, Ambrosia, Sunrise, Gala, Fortune, Keepsake. Their names so improbably, the queer potential of happiness foretold by each. Yes, Bruno, I’ll be your wife.”

Pair Hausfrau with Apfelwähe (Swiss-style apple tart).


19 responses

  1. “DO wonder what drugs a particular reviewer was smoking when they said this book was ‘Madame Bovary meets Fifty Shades of Grey.’ I actually find it offensive to mention this book and FSoG in the same sentence.” This times a thousand. Such an AWFUL comparison.

    • Also saw one reviewer liken it to Gone Girl… Again, what the actual hell? Gone Girl comparison not as offensive as FSoG but still, big difference between trash/pulp fiction and contemporary literature!

    • Really, really good – probably not everyone’s cup of tea because it is depressing and the main character not altogether likeable BUT it is so well written.

  2. It seems everyone loves this book! It’s definitely on my radar. I hope it becomes more than yet another book that I really want to read… BTW I really like the blue cover, the other one- not so much.

    • It’s one of those books that’s getting either 5 star or 1 star reviews. They’re the best kind of books, don’t you think? I suspect people aren’t liking it because the main character is not terribly likeable/ it’s all a bit confronting. Plus the writing is exceptional.

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