Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum


Anna is an American ex-pat in her late 30’s who is living in Switzerland with her husband and three young children. Outwardly she leads a pretty idyllic life in a beautiful suburb of Zurich. She is morose, without purpose and is joyless. She has struggled by with learning little German, which makes communication and interaction difficult. She just floats along in life. She has a string of affairs, which are just as empty as she is. She has become a consummate liar and can compartmentalize her affairs from the rest of her life. She feels that the lack of attention and love she receives from her husband is justification for her affairs. She has run away from things her entire life and even lies to herself about it. She is an empty shell of a person.

This woman is struggling through her life; she is depressed and clearly mentally ill. She tries to fill a never ending hole in her life but the more she can’t fill it the more she spirals out of control. After 9 years of living in Switzerland she finally attends German classes. As she learns more of the language she starts to interact more but even this is too little too late. When she finally decided to change her life, thinking things will get better, things get more out of control.

In some ways I can relate to Anna, as far as moving to a different country and struggling to fit in. It’s hard to make friends in a country where you speak the language, never mind in one where you don’t. When she did have moments of intense joy she let it consume her and wash over her. She would be unable to contain herself and thought she would burst from the sheer wonder of it all. Then it would all come crashing down on her as she feels she doesn’t deserve to be happy. She would question her psychoanalysis about God, morals and the after life. God was brought into the story but even then if Anna didn’t or couldn’t find the answers she wanted then she would despair more.

I found it hard going in some parts of this book. The sections where Anna is speaking to her annalist were just thrown into the middle of a paragraph. One story line would be going on while there would be a flashback within a flashback thrown in at the same time and you would struggle to figure out just what was going on. This book has a lot of internal monolog from Anna, which makes the story, but the randomness of things makes me wonder if the author is trying to let you into the workings of Anna’s mind, if that’s the case she did an amazing job of it. This isn’t an easy book, it’s a dark read in some ways.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4/5 stars



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