Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
With depth of emotion that is truly astounding, Jill Essbaum tells the story of Anna Benz- an American expatriate who has married a Swiss banker. Despite that she has been living in Switzerland for 9 years, speaks German moderately well, has three children and an actively involved mother-in-law, Anna feels like an outsider… alone and isolated. Hausfrau is one of the saddest novels I’ve ever read.
It is clear from the onset that Anna has serious problems. She is seeing a psychiatrist and you- the reader- share portions of Anna’s interaction with the therapist. She has a broken spirit. No religion. No morals. And no grounded roots. Initially, the author’s clever technique of including Anna’s thoughts during the therapy sessions seemed like a ruse to inspire sympathy for Anna. But the last thing Anna would have wanted was sympathy. Her visits to the therapist were nothing more than a challenging mental exercise to conceal her true and deepest thoughts. After all, the only reason she was even going to Dr. Messerli was because her husband Bruno insisted, “I’ve had enough of your f…ing misery, Anna. Go fix it.”
Anna is not exactly a likable character. Her deep rooted but detached anti-social behavior is repellent and her reckless selfish actions evoke disdain and horror. She uses casual indiscreet sexual affairs with random strangers to numb her mental anguish, Therefore, be warned of some very graphic sex scenes. And seemingly set on accomplishing self destruction at any any cost, be prepared to witness the unpleasant consequences.
Jill Essbaum has won numerous awards for her poetry and this talent comes through with exquisite clarity in the telling of Anna’s story. A modern literary achievement of high order, expect Hausfrau to be showered with praise and recognition.
In case you are curious… yes- as the story progressed- I did develop very deep sympathy for Anna. My heart ached enough to bring me to tears at the end of the story. As she quoted herself, saying at a tender point during this tragic novel, no-one should have to feel this much pain. Ever.
Rated 5 Stars.
All contents © 2015 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.