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Haunting and elegant, Hausfrau is the exceptional debut novel from the prize-winning American poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum.

Anna was a good wife, mostly . . .

Anna Benz lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. Anna, an American expat, has chosen this life far from home; but, despite its tranquility and order, inside she is falling apart.

Feeling adrift and unable to connect with her husband or his family; with the fellow expatriates who try to befriend her; or even, increasingly, her own thoughts and emotions, Anna attempts to assert her agency in the only way that makes sense to her: by engaging in short-lived but intense sexual affairs.

But adultery, too, has its own morality, and when Anna finds herself crossing a line, she will set off a terrible chain of events that ends in unspeakable tragedy. As her life crashes down around her, Anna must then discover where one must go when there is no going back . . .
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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 27mm | 469g
  • Mantle
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 1447280792
  • 9781447280798
  • 189,009

Review quote

Looks set to be a summer smash * The Sun * To the steaminess of EL James's erotic classic, it adds the marital dysfunction of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and the commuter neuroses of Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train. There won't be a sun lounger or beach bag without it this summer * Sunday Telegraph * Ruthlessly well-written . . . It is bleak but compelling, all the way to the tragic end * Sunday Times Ireland * A graphic study of adultery, Hausfrau will cause a stir * Sunday Times * This novel had me from the first line: 'Anna was a good wife, mostly.' . . . An intense and chilling portrait of a woman on a mission to self-destruct. -- Fanny Blake * Daily Mail * Utterly compelling . . . Her searing honesty ensures the book is both gripping and wonderfully refreshing * Stylist * Essbaum is also a poet and it's evident in her use of language, in her ability to give equal force to descriptions of extramarital sex, and the dull suburbs where the liaisons take place. Hausfrau has already generated a lot of interest, with comparisons ranging from Gone Girl to Anna Karenina . . . She's somewhat amoral and not particularly likeable, but she is an absolutely fascinating heroine and, still, strangely sympathetic. * Emerald Street * 'The obvious appeal of the writing is in its clever restraint and artful use of rhythm . . . The reader's attempt to understand the unhappiness of a woman surrounded by the trappings of a successful life paves the way to her character's literary predecessors, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina . . . This is a focused tale, immersed in the complicated thoughts and days of the ailing heroine, but the narrative engages with ideas as much as it does the symptoms of Anna's despair. Essbaum uses excerpts from Anna's German-language classes as an avenue for the word play you might expect from a poet; the many guarded exchanges with her psychoanalyst broaden the scope of the text, leading to discussions of marriage, ego, self-knowledge and gender, shame and predestination. * Sydney Morning Herald * A powerful, lyrical novel, Hausfrau plumbs the psychology of a lonely, unfaithful housewife and unravels the connections between our words and our deeds. * Huffington Post * Hausfrau wears its comparisons to 19th-century novels of domestic ennui - Fontane's Effi Briest, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - proudly on its sleeve . . . She's "a good wife, mostly", but like her literary predecessors, adultery offers her fleeting respite from the tedium of domesticity . . . As the novel progresses, echoes of Anna Karenina reverberate the most clearly, not simply in the mirroring of the central protagonist's name, but also in Jill Alexander Essbaum's plot. This, however, isn't to say that Hausfrau is predictable; indeed, it's testament to the skill of Essbaum's writing that knowing Anna's heading for the same tragic fate does nothing to detract from the impact of the narrative. Essbaum offers a piercingly astute psychological portrait of a woman sleepwalking to self-destruction. She should also be applauded for transposing what is essentially a 19th-century narrative trope onto a contemporary setting, and still have it resonate with reality and truth . . . Essbaum shows considerable dexterity in creating a heroine who remains sympathetic despite being exasperatingly apathetic. * The National * A tense novel about morality, fidelity and identity. * Elle * 'Modern day Madame Bovary' is how many are describing Hausfrau, and not without good reason: Anna is an American housewife, married and living in Switzerland. She has three children and at least as many lovers. What lifts the novel from feeling like little more than homage is Anna herself. She's cold, selfish and unusually ruthless. But we know from the outset that something awful is going to happen, and despite Anna's impulses, you still dread it with every page you (compulsively) turn. The Girls-level frankness of the sex scenes set against the cleverly drawn Swiss banality add to the strangely hypnotic reading experience. You'll want to discuss it immediately * The Debrief * A remarkable, captivating debut. I was hooked from the first line. * Paula Daly * The ghost of Anna Karenina haunts the poet Jill Alexander Essbaum's debut, Hausfrau * Harper's Bazaar, Ones to Watch * With more than a passing resemblance to Anna Karenina, Hausfrau is a sparse but tragic book. Likened to Fifty Shades of Grey and The Lemon Grove . . . a book club winner. * Stylist, The Debut Authors to Read in 2015 * That idea of the home as an oppressive rather than welcoming place forms a common thread through all these novels, most chillingly in Essbaum's Hausfrau, in which the depressed Anna drifts through her affluent Swiss life like a less vivacious Emma Bovary, destroying her life one small misstep at a time. * Observer * 2015 is shaping up to be a top year for books. Jill Alexander Essbaum's Hausfrau is a beautiful dissection of a marriage in crisis and a modern-day Anna Karenina tale. * Glamour magazine, Entertainment 2015: The Ultimate Edit * I read this at a sitting, transfixed by this insightful and shocking portrait of a woman on the edge. -- Fanny Blake * Woman and Home * An exceptional debut . . . [with] a heart-stopping climax . . . this portrait of a woman on the edge lingers long in the memory. * The Bookseller * With an elegance, precision and surehandedness that recalls Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac, Jill Alexander Essbaum gives us this exquisite tale of an expatriate American wife living in Switzerland and her sexual and psychic unraveling. Hausfrau stuns with its confidence and severe beauty, its cascading insights into the uses of erotic life and the nature of secrets, the urgency of compulsion and the difficulty of freedom. A rare and remarkable debut. * Janet Fitch, bestselling author of White Oleander * It is that impossible thing: a page-turner about depression. I admired its cool, European tone; its refusal to evince any anxiety at all about "privilege"; its equivocation about pretty much everything save for the Swiss national character . . .Most of all, I liked the fact that Essbaum gives us no sweeteners in the matter of Anna's character. She is difficult. She is boring. She is narcissistic. She is so very sad. * Observer * There are echoes in Hausfrau of those other frustrated wives, Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina . . . Torn between the identities of docile housewife and erotic adventuress, Anna is fragmented. Essbaum is an acclaimed poet and at moments her prose takes on a lyrical concentration. Scottish Archie speaks "a queue of vowels rammed into one another like a smithy's bellows pressed hotly closed" . . .
It's refreshing to discover a female protagonist who is allowed to be quite such a casual wife, such a detached mother, such an unromantic lover . . . That, in the end, is the subversive thing about Anna: not her libido or her secret affairs, but her refusal to feel quite as copiously as women are expected to, her refusal to make herself likeable. She neither courts our approval nor dodges our judgement. * Independent on Sunday * A racy mix of Gone Girl and 50 Shades. * Grazia * This slow-burning literary novel of marital disintegration will leave you in bits. It's a bleak, but beautiful read, with echoes of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. * Glamour * It's the book that will have everyone talking . . . * Cosmopolitan * Hausfrau may be the Fifty Shades of literary fiction . . . This debut brilliantly chronicles a woman's
life falling apart . . . The novel's mood is, like Anna's, dreamy and dissociated . . . It is a brilliantly sustained examination of self-induced loneliness and pathological alienation. * The Times * Haunting . . . Beautifully written, the ennui of its Anna Karenina-esque heroine's deceptively perfect life as a Swiss housewife seeps from every page * Best books of 2015, Harper's Bazaar *
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About Jill Alexander Essbaum

Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of several collections of poetry. Her work has twice appeared in The Best American Poetry, as well as its sister anthology, The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present. A winner of the Bakeless Poetry Prize and recipient of two NEA literature fellowships, Essbaum is a member of the core faculty of the Low Residency MFA at the University of California, Riverside, where she teaches poetry. She lives and writes in Austin, Texas. Hausfrau is her first novel.
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Rating details

12,532 ratings
3.23 out of 5 stars
5 13% (1,616)
4 29% (3,644)
3 34% (4,252)
2 17% (2,163)
1 7% (857)
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