NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, THE HUFFINGTON POST, AND SHELF AWARENESS • “In Hausfrau, Anna Karenina goes Fifty Shades with a side of Madame Bovary.”—Time
“A debut novel about Anna, a bored housewife who, like her Tolstoyan namesake, throws herself into a psychosexual journey of self-discovery and tragedy.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Sexy and insightful, this gorgeously written novel opens a window into one woman’s desperate soul.”—People
Anna was a good wife, mostly. For readers of The Girl on the Train and The Woman Upstairs comes a striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning.
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.
Intimate, intense, and written with the precision of a Swiss Army knife, Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of marriage, fidelity, sex, morality, and most especially self. Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz is an electrifying heroine whose passions and choices readers will debate with recognition and fury. Her story reveals, with honesty and great beauty, how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.
Praise for Hausfrau
“Elegant . . . There is much to admire in Essbaum’s intricately constructed, meticulously composed novel, including its virtuosic intercutting of past and present.”—Chicago Tribune
“For a first novelist, Essbaum is extraordinary because she is a poet. Her language is meticulous and resonant and daring.”—NPR’s Weekend Edition
“We’re in literary territory as familiar as Anna’s name, but Essbaum makes it fresh with sharp prose and psychological insight.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“This marvelously quiet book is psychologically complex and deeply intimate. . . . One of the smartest novels in recent memory.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Essbaum’s poignant, shocking debut novel rivets.”—Us Weekly
“A powerful, lyrical novel . . . Hausfrau boasts taut pacing and melodrama, but also a fully realized heroine as love-hateable as Emma Bovary.”—The Huffington Post
“Imagine Tom Perrotta’s American nowheresvilles swapped out for a tidy Zürich suburb, sprinkled liberally with sharp riffs on Swiss-German grammar and European hypocrisy.”—New York
Over a century after the publication of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, poet Essbaum proves in her debut novel that there is still plenty of psychic territory to cover in the story of "a good wife, mostly." But now, more than ever, it is clear that the conflict between the protagonist's desires and her "tightly circumscribed" world is her own doing, and not a result of social limitations. Anna Benz is an American expatriate and mother of three, married to Bruno, a Swiss banker. In her nine years of living in a tidy suburb of Zurich, Anna (whose name is a Tolstoy nod) has never gotten a driver's license, befriended other mothers, or learned Swiss German, the form of German spoken in Switzerland. Essbaum's story opens as Anna attempts to break through her ennui and engage with the world. She starts a course of Jungian analysis with the inimitable Doktor Messerli and finally enrolls in language classes. Still, she's drawn into a number of extramarital affairs that skirt the line between passion and passivity. In Essbaum's capable hands, Anna invites the reader's empathy rather than scorn. The realism of Anna's dilemmas and the precise construction of the novel are marvels of the form, and Essbaum chooses her words carefully. When her teacher lectures her on verb tenses, Anna wonders, "But how often is the past simple? Is the present ever perfect?" This novel is masterly as it moves toward its own inescapable ending, and Anna is likely to provoke strong feelings in readers well after the final page.
Touching and sad
I disagree with the other reviews. I found this painfully sad. This woman felt empty inside despite all she had. I was moved by this book.
Save your money
This story is pointless, depressing, and unchanging from beginning to end.
Needles in my eyes!
I never ever write reviews. However this book was so God awful I simply had to. If you're considering buying this book please just don't! Run. Put your phone down. Go take a cold shower and rethink flushing your hard earned money down the pot. Nothing. Not one God forsaken thing about this book was good. Depressing plot, self loathing unlike able characters and no ending. Not even finality to this crappy story. Please. Just. Don't.