Review: Hausfrau

Hausfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum


Expected publication: March 17th 2015 by Random House

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: ARC from Shelf Awareness


I feel my words are inadequate to review Hausfrau because the writing was just so beautiful- I don’t know how I can talk about the writing and do Essbaum justice.  Thankfully, the writing carried me through the beginning of the book, because I could not stand Anna.  Anna is sad, very sad.  All the time sad.  I’m honestly not sure if Anna would be satisfied with happiness if she found it which was frustrating for me.  Anna is an American who lives with her Swiss husband and their three children in the suburbs of Zurich.  After years in Switzerland she’s taking Swiss language classes to finally try to fit in and to expand her circle of friends beyond one woman.  Anna and Bruno have a comfortable life and he carries all of the responsibilities.  Anna doesn’t even keep her own bank account.  She uses her “Handy” (cell phone) to remind herself she’s a modern housewife, not living in the 1950’s.

Anna is in Jungian analysis with a Swiss practitioner and also is practicing some self-analysis with frequent sex -both within her marriage and extramarital affairs.  She is lonely and bored and while she wants to be a good mother and wants to be what she considers a good wife, she can’t put forth all the effort all the time.  As Anna’s behavior starts to cross further outside of what one might expect from a good hausfrau, I felt more drawn into the story, just to see how far she would go.  I also wanted to see where her lies would carry her.  I did not expect the emotions that Essbaum brought out in me over Anna’s behavior and what happened to her.  I definitely did not expect the plot to move the way it did!  The story moves from life to session which I really enjoyed.  I liked the glimpses into Anna’s head as Dr. Messerli attempted to draw her out.

Do you know the German word Sehnucht?  Anna shook her head no.  “It means disconsolate longing.  It’s that hole in your heart out of which all hope leaks.”  Anna became queasy with dread.  Doktor Messerli sensed this.  “Anna” she consoled, “it only feels hopeless.  It doesn’t have to be.”  

Doesn’t it?”  Anna answered silently.

I can’t say more for fear of spoiling but I think this is going to be one of the most talked about books of the year.  I did not like Anna but her story had me on the edge of my seat.  Hausfrau is a book that will keep me thinking for a while.

One more quote because I loved it and it sums up Anna I think:

“Do you know what its like?”  Anna spoke quickly, breathlessly.  “It’s like having so much feeling in your body that you become the feeling.  And when you become the feeling, it’s not in you anymore.  It is you. And the feeling is despair….

4.5 stars!

Thank you Random House for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.


  1. Initially this one really didn’t appeal to me—I feel like there are far too many “dissatisfied spouse” novels out there—but after hearing some of the comparisons and reading a few positive reviews, I’ve placed a hold. 🙂

    Glad you ended up liking it so much! I remember reading some uncertain tweets from you at first.

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