Review: ‘Hausfrau’ by Jill Alexander Essbaum

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

Review: ‘Hausfrau’ by Jill Alexander EssbaumHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 17th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover
Source: agency review pitch
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—“a modern-day Anna Karenina tale.”*

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.

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Anna is a housewife, an American who married a Swiss man. Together they have three lovely children. Anna’s days are spent wandering the streets of her town and having affairs with various men. Told in dual past and present views, we see one woman’s journey into a marriage that will make or break her.


My new goal this year was to read more adult and this one just sounded like an interesting read. I’m not one for reading a literary book, but this one proved to be more heart wrenching than anything else. I wish I was warned as to how dark this was going to be.. I was not prepared for the things that Anna goes through.


Anna is one complex character. We see bits and pieces of her being slowly discovered. Her mental health is definitely unstable and the more I read, the more depressed I became. What I didn’t understand really was the reasoning behind everything because she never took responsibility for any of her actions. Such terrible things she would do, I was astounded. I could understand, but at the same time I couldn’t agree with her. This was one character you aren’t able to relate to, but at the same time you felt every emotion she was experiencing.


The writing is excellent and shows a lot of prose, but it felt more like it was telling instead of showing a story. And the story was too predictable for me. At one point, I wanted to just stop reading, but I pushed on anyway and kept going. Closer to the end, things start to happen and I can’t say I was too happy with it. I loved the setting because Switzerland sounds like a wonderful place to live. I liked reading about the places she would go and even learning some of the German words sprinkled throughout the book.

Read this for its beautiful prose, but I would like to warn you that this is a darker read and it won’t be for everyone. I felt a lot of sadness throughout the entire read and I needed a happier book to read next.


A secret’s safest hiding place is in the open. (90)
Where you were is never as relevant as where you are. (181)
I like it when I get to see a side of you you’re trying to hide. (191)
What good is a useful object if it can’t be used? (191)
It’s a travesty when a woman wastes herself. (197)
Without God, what matters? (208)
The mistakes a person makes tell you everything you need to know. (217)
Where your family is. That’s home. (260)
The strong ones stand out. The weak ones are all the same. (298)
Our lives are cause and effect. Even the smallest choices matter. (307)

reading progress






  1. Natalie @ Browsing Bookshelves

    June 7, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    I was curious about this book but after reading your review it definitely does not sound like something I would enjoy! I feel like I would spend the whole time being angry and frustrated with the main character!

  2. vvb

    June 5, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    Actually I have this in my tbr pile and wanted to read it for its darkness and Switzerland locale. Your review has got me more interested in it. May have to nudge it closer to the top of my pile.

    • giselle

      June 5, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      YAY! I’m so glad you’ll check it out..It really made me want to go and visit Switzerland.

  3. Kelsey

    June 5, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    Not really my first pick when I look at books, and I’m not sure yet if it’s one I want to read. Maybe someday down the road, but for now I’ll leave this dark book alone.
    Kelsey recently posted…Discussions with K: eReadersMy Profile

  4. The Literary Counsellor

    June 4, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    This is one of those books that, whether you love it or hate it, you will have a lot to say about it. My book club debated the merits of this book for quite some time. Eventually we all decided that it must be a good book because it incites so much discussion. It is definitely an emotionally draining read.
    The Literary Counsellor recently posted…Happy Hug Your Cat (book) Day!My Profile

    • giselle

      June 5, 2015 at 12:35 PM

      I completely agree..You feel all the emotions she goes through. That’s the perfect way to describe it. “emotionally draining!”

  5. Erin @ Biblionomad

    June 4, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    I felt the same way about this book. If there had been any humor at all to leaven the darkness it might have been bearable.
    Erin @ Biblionomad recently posted…Review: The Mime Order by Samantha ShannonMy Profile

    • giselle

      June 5, 2015 at 7:52 AM

      A little dark humour for sure would have helped offset the depressing state

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