Review (Revisited): Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

IMG_3330Okay….so now I need to figure out how to review a book that I didn’t even read….

So yes, this isn’t really a review, but it does contain some of my thoughts about this book….

I was very excited to start this book….I’ve recently moved from the only country I’ve ever known to another country to be with my (now) husband. So I thought in many ways that this book would speak to me. That there would be parts that I could relate to. Also it’s has such a beautiful cover. I try not to judge a book based upon it’s cover, but I admit to being a sucker for one that is as beautiful as this one. Plus, when I glanced over the description (I try not to read full descriptions) it looked like exactly the type of book I enjoy….

So I started it….I will say I finally gave up at 25%…I did scan a few later chapters and I did read the last chapter….with the ending, it’s really a shame that I couldn’t get into this novel…because endings like this book don’t put me off….they don’t make me angry….they enrich my enjoyment of a novel because they are more real to life than some neatly wrapped up pretty package of an ending….

But back to why I just couldn’t read more of this novel…I just couldn’t relate to Anna at all. It’s not that I didn’t like her….or couldn’t understand her….she was just….errrr…lifeless….perhaps that was intentional, I don’t know…I’ve met people who were lifeless I suppose….I guess it would even make sense if it was intentional…as if Anna was only existing, and not actually living….hell, I said I looked forward to this book because I could relate….it wasn’t just moving to another country I spoke of….I’ve merely existed as well….but….I don’t know….Anna just felt flat to me….

I will say that from what I read this wasn’t a marriage/family thing…this is how Anna was long before she moved to another country….before she got married…and before she had children….and I understand to some extent what the author was trying to do here….Perhaps she is trying to paint the world that I was reading to mimic the world that Anna was actually in….

But on a personal level…I’ve been there…..and I have no desire to revisit that bleakness again….so maybe I am wrong in saying that I could not connect with Anna…perhaps I did…and wanted no part of it….

The way that the book was written was very confusing to me as well….I’ve read a few books that jumped from current time, to future conversations, to past conversations without warning and not had issues with it. It suited the book….I didn’t feel it suited this novel though..the more the jumps happened…well the more and more I felt that it was just another factor that was determined to prevent me from relating to Anna and her story….It was just another barrier that I couldn’t overcome….let’s be clear….It’s not that I didn’t like Anna….or that I hated Anna….heck, I confess to loving some books that I absolutely hated ALL the characters. I will even admit that some books have annoyed me to no end by the behaviours of the main character….but the writing and all the *stuff* going on in the novel….well….there was nothing to do but to read on and marvel at the writing…the feelings this novel inspired (which were few) did not inspire me to read on…I wanted to give up much earlier than I did, but I hate to give up on a book!

Again….this novel…it just fell flat for me 😦 I hate that it did. I really wanted to fall in love….but sometimes we just have to make due with the fact that not every book speaks to us…and we can’t love every one we read…..

Until next time…

Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

and please….don’t bother committing on this review and telling me I shouldn’t rate it if I didn’t finish it…I can take a bite from a sandwich and know it’s not for me…I shouldn’t be forced to eat the whole thing before I’m allowed my opinion….I know after 25% that this writing style would never be for me….and I’m entitled to my opinion and yes, I’m allowed to rate it based on my feelings…don’t like it? Well…..get over it….oh….and have a nice day….x

Buy it now Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Review: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum 

This novel is a window into the discontentment of an American woman living in Zurich with her Swiss husband and their children. 

Anna is a glum housewife. She has all the material wants and needs – a family, friends, sex, money – but she finds no joy or purpose in her motherhood or wifeliness or womanhood. Anna has no direction, either, unless you consider “direction” to be running away from her life into the arms of other men. 

I hated to see Anna so numb to the world, feeling like a shell of a person. Halfway through the book, there seemed to be no solution, no psychoanalytical instruction, no amount of sexual gratification that would shake her out of it. 

Then I read the second half. I let the book sink in. And even though I planned on writing a review, not a literary analysis, I realized that Essbaum did a couple of brilliant things: 

First, Essbaum created the absence of the belief in God, but the presence of God. There’s a church within sight of Anna’s home, a church she walked by every day. Also, Anna questioned her therapist and her husband about the existence of God. She pondered her parents’ and in-laws’ religious beliefs and practices as well. 

Second, Essbaum made Anna’s character have no god whatsoever. Anna didn’t adore money, or sex, or her husband, or herself. As a matter of fact, the only possible feeling Anna did have was toward one of her sons. Because he was eventually taken from her, she didn’t even end up having a pretense of love to hold onto.  And after Anna lost her son, she lost everything: friends, family, sex, money.

Essbaum illustrated the material losses. I felt them. 

Indeed, Anna was without love. And without love, there is nothing. 

Essbaum described Anna’s loneliness and depression as spiraling inward… At some point a spiral ends at not a pinpoint, but at a hole, at nothingness. So if Anna represents this infinite absence, the antithesis would be someone or something that is everything and ever-present.  There’s only one thing that fits the bill: Love. And if she’s looking for someone to personify love: God. 

Whether Essbaum does or doesn’t want to make a faith statement is an arguable point, but if there’s no God, what IS there to fill up Anna’s lack? 

Some people will think Hausfrau is just about an unhappy wife who can’t settle in to Swiss culture.  Some will cry for more help for the mentally ill, or programs for cultural assimilation. Some readers will condemn Anna’s infidelity and the coolness of the Swiss family. Some may be angry that Anna was beaten for her transgressions. Some readers might think Anna’s husband should be part of the solution to Anna’s despair. 

But I don’t know that the book was really about those symptoms of cheating and sadness and anger. I think it’s about the absence, the nothingness, the lack. 

I submit that all Anna needed to do before she lost everything – or better, after she lost everything – was look to God. 



Review: The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

20140403-223359.jpg I have such a list of books to read and review that sometimes I gingerly open a book expecting – but hoping not – that it will be drudgery. And so it was with The Swiss Affair. I had prolonged it so many weeks that I created false bias in my mind: probably historical fiction, I know nothing about Switzerland, there better not be spousal cheating going on, etc, etc, etc.

I was in for the surprise of my life. The Swiss Affair is so many things, wrapped up in beautiful language, distinct and varying characters, and set upon wintery white Lausanne, Switzerland.

While reading, I felt like I WAS Hadley, young British innocent. I was brought back to my university days, with eyes wide and bright, seeing more in people than may have truly been there…. A time and place where anything was possible, adventure abounded, and I lived for luxuriating in every moment.

“There’s a phrase in French, you know … Il faut profiter. It means ‘make the most of it’ … But it’s more than that. It’s about… luxuriating in a moment.”

So there’s the coming of age bit.

Then, the affair. The forbidden romance. The love story. It’s not perfect, but I love it all the more because it isn’t. And really there are three affairs – Hadley’s, Hadley’s friend Kristina’s, and the love affair with Lausanne – all worthwhile, and all bittersweet.

And there’s a murder mystery woven in The Swiss Affair. Lucky for Hadley she befriends a former detective novelist who wants to help her solve it. It’s well done with a few twists and turns, but nothing you can’t guess if you put your mind to it.

There’s skiing. There’s cognac and whiskey and beer. Hugs. Friends. And lots of snow. Walks amongst snowflakes — alone or together or in a large party. Wonder. Awe. And sadness. Guilty, heart-wrenching, lonely sadness.

I don’t remember reading anything that comes close to the well-roundedness of The Swiss Affair. It’s romance, tragedy, mystery, drama, chick lit, new adult, adventure, and literary fiction all rolled into one. It’s dark and it’s bright. And it’s dark again. And even though I’d always tell you I prefer a happily ever after, I appreciate that this ending isn’t. This ending is teary for the reader but full of new beginnings for Hadley and Henri.