Mental Health Monday: Hausfrau

Posted 23 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mental Health Monday: HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 352

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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.

Dear God. Hausfrau is one of those books that hits you where it hurts. Love (or something close to love), marriage, infidelity, family, mental illness…

This book was an all around winner for me. It’s not just deep and important with plenty of things for bookclubs everywhere to argue about, it’s also beautifully written. I have a background in German so the parallels that Essbaum made between the German language and Anna’s life decisions were endlessly fascinating and relatable to me.

Despite her affairs and questionable moral behavior I liked Anna and understood her compulsions and actions (or lack thereof). Depression is not something that can be ‘fixed’ with something as easy as finding a new hobby or making new friends, and perhaps I excuse her affairs because of her long term depression.

This book is gorgeously written and tackles a number of complex and heavy topics. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Other viewpoints from:

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf

Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Shannon at River City Reading

Melinda at The Book Musings

What about you, Reader? Can you handle a book where you find some of the protagonist’s actions morally reprehensible? Do we judge men as harshly as women when it comes to marital infidelity? And don’t forget to drop into The Socratic Salon on Wednesday where we’ll really break it down.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



6 Responses to “Mental Health Monday: Hausfrau”

  1. This is one of those books that is getting so much buzz that I’m going to wait to read it. I did not with We Were Liars and I was majorly disappointed when I figured everything out in the first 1/4 of the book. I just do better when I forget all the hype! Good review, though!

  2. I also really liked this book, and was drawn in from page one. I found Anna’s actions, not justifiable, but completely understandable coming from her character and state of mind, which was described so excellently by Essbaum.

    And in answer to your questions: I love an unlikable character, and can handle poor actions, if they are within the realm of what that character would do, versus just for shock value, but doesn’t really fit the tone of the character… if that makes any sense.

    Of course we (society’s “we”) don’t judge men as harshly. Both women and men alike hate women who cheat, yet when men cheat it’s “aw yeah, get that” or “it’s just what men do” attitudes. When women cheat, especially when there’s children involved… it’s all about the kids, and who’s with the kids, who’s taking care of the family…. but again, much less of that is considered when it’s the man. That’s just my opinion, but this is a trigger topic for me, and normally I have a hard time reading about infidelity in books, however this one did it so well, I got over it.

    Whoa, long comment, apologies. CAN’T WAIT for Socratic Salon discussions… *cracks knuckles* 🙂