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For readers of Claire Messud and Mary Gaitskill comes a striking debut novel of marriage, fidelity, sex, and morality, featuring a fascinating heroine who struggles to live a life with meaning.
Anna was a good wife, mostly.
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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By NMwritergal on 03-22-15
Wonderful writing; pathetic, passive protagonist &
...deadly dull story.
1. Stellar writing
2. Meditations on the German and Swiss German language and how the verb tenses, etc. are a metaphor for Anna's life
3. Great audio narrator
What didn't work:
1. Everything else.
2. Relentlessly depressing book about a relentlessly depressed character.
3. Character has little insight or if she does, she doesn't do anything with it--the classic is her passivity. She admits she "lets" men sleep with her because she's passive, just doesn't have the energy or wherewithal to say, "No, I'm not going to have sex with you, my husband's friend, whom I've met 12 times but can't remember your name, out in the woods." Right.
4. I realized that even if the very little dialogue there is in this book, and Anna rarely says more than three short sentences at most--usually questions. We are stuck in her head the rest of the time.
5. Nothing makes her happy--except sex. Sort of. 99% of the book is about a woman who has/takes no pleasure or joy in her life (so the reader doesn't get any either). Not even her kids seem to evoke much feeling in her, though she clearly likes the younger two better--likes. Yeah, don't get any feeling that she loves them deeply but is just rather fond of them.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful
By Lulu on 04-05-15
I Really Tried
I can handle books that are at their core very dull. I can handle books where the characters wallow in depression. I can even get through books where I don't "like" the main character. But I cannot handle a dull and depressing book about a character I can't stand. I don't have to have joyful HEA endings, but there has to be some small kernel of compassion or sympathy or even interest in or with the characters of a book or I cannot slog my way through it.
I read advance reviews of Hausfrau and while I thought it might be a tough read, it also piqued my interest and I was looking forward to reading it. Boy, was I disappointed. No, disappointed is too strong an emotion. If I had to sum up my feelings and thoughts about the book and it's characters in two words they would be "who cares?" There was not a single person in the book I found interesting enough to care what happened to them. Instead it was full of people that if I met them in real life, they would be instantly forgettable and never someone whose company I would be mildly interesting in keeping.
If the characters of this book existed in real life no one would ever think of writing their biography. There just wouldn't be any reason to justify it. So I am not sure why anyone would think it made sense to write a piece of fiction about them.
The narration was quite good. But that is the only positive comment I can make. I cannot recommend the book.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful