Review: ‘Hausfrau’ by Jill Alexander Essbaum

It’s time to break out of my reading comfort zone, and I’ve found the perfect way to do it! Working at a bookstore definitely has it’s perks, one of which is being provided with advanced readers copies. One of the cool things that my company does is pick a book each month to promote based on the recommendations of a committee. I recently joined this group, and have been asked to read 5 books that I likely never would have picked up. I’ve already enjoyed 3 of the 5, but have been struggling to read the last 2 because the writing just isn’t to my taste.

Hausfrau haus·frau haus-frau n 1: Origin: German. Housewife, homemaker. 2: A married woman. 3: A novel by jill alexander essbaum

The first book I read from the list was Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. This book felt very much like Fifty Shades of Grey meets Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a bit hard to follow at the beginning because the narration jumps between scenes. One minute you are in the kitchen with the main character (Anna)’s husband, and the next it will jump to a conversation she had with her therapist about her husband. The content is connected, but there is no lead in to the change in scene. Once you get used to it, it’s easy to figure out where her mind has wandered, but it can be jarring at first.

This is a first novel for Essbaum, who is also a published poet and a professor from Texas. Maybe it’s something about being a poet, but I felt like I was reading far too many sentences dedicated to the description of things as simple as chairs and trees. Unless you have never seen a chair or a tree, it’s fairly likely that you have some concept of what one looks like. If the object is absolutely essential to the telling of the story, I can understand some specific details being provided, but when it’s just part of the setting and will never be mentioned again, I don’t see the point.

And really, why are we so focused on the setting when there are so many more interesting things happening in the story? The plethora of sex scenes in this book should have lent themselves to some very interesting and risqué descriptions, and instead we got to read about the exact location and description of Anna’s lover’s apartment in relation to a bunch of other buildings I have no care to read about. This is where the book becomes decidedly Scandinavian in it’s writing style, even though the author isn’t Scandinavian. This was my problem with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I don’t know what it is about books set in Sweden, but these authors seem to be gripped with the overwhelming urge to give us directions to each location in their book, like suddenly I’m going to say “Oh! Of course! It’s just next to the deli where that guy with the weird mustache tried to sell me that really stinky cheese! I’m so glad the author told me. I might have mixed this apartment building up with the one three blocks away and the whole book would be ruined!”

But, with all that said, I still very much enjoyed this book. The characters were mainly likeable, and the ones that you don’t like you aren’t supposed to like anyway. Throughout the book you have no idea what is going to happen next. Will Anna take another lover? How has no one figured out what is happening? Why is her therapist so infuriating? Who talks like that? And the end… wow! I did not see that coming at all.

This was definitely a book I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. The cover is great, so I might have looked at it, but I know I never would have read further than the blurb on the back. I’m definitely glad I did read it, because it has already expanded my literary world, making me a much more well-rounded reader. And now I can finally recommend something to those customers who ask for something different but have no idea what they mean by “different”.

LC rating: four-stars (great book)


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