Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum

What did I think about Hausfrau? I think I feel very complicatedly about the novel (lol I sound like Anna, “I think I feel..”)

Overall I liked the novel, it moved me to a place I’m not really sure where. I thought that it was complicated, the character Anna was so complicated. I want to preface by saying I am not a mother or wife, so I do not have the same reactions as say, someone who is both of those things.
I thought perhaps there was a lot left unaccomplished by the end of the novel. This idea, connection, between language and the overall culture that she was living in felt unfinished. Additionally, I found the novel sad in an unsurprising way, which to me, made it even sadder. But on a more positive note, I thought Essbaum had a beautiful flow and diction throughout the novel. If you don’t like the plot, you will be drawn in by her prose.

Specifics I found it crazy how much I could identify with Anna, since our lives are very, very different. But I felt like I understood her sorrows and empathy like they were my own. From the moment Hausfrau opened I jumped for her questions of life, and disappointments at the answers. I also like Essbaum’s style when she discussed sex, very vulgarly. I think that for some people it could come off as too heavy, and not very plot driven. I thought that it worked for me, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

She let her mind turn gray.

The novel was so conflicting because I could easily dislike Anna, for her selfish apathy towards life, and her children. However I think it just shows how terribly the people in her life dealt with this. There is failure among all the men in her life, for never showing her the love and support she needed, simply because sometimes she was too frail to ask for it. Bruno, too, is apathetic to his wife, but he does not invoke the same reaction that Anna does. The reader hate-loves her. She seems like such an honest, fictional, description.

Bruno shook his head, ‘They don’t need to see your face.’

Spoilers I think that overall I was left with this feeling of guilt after I finished the novel. I imagined her getting kicked out of the house, with no money, beaten, no children, no friends and a huge amount of shame. She felt like she didn’t deserve any help, or love.

If it didn’t mean everything, it meant nothing. If I didn’t matter the most, I mattered the least.

Honestly by the end I sort of wanted her to kill herself, as terrible as that sounds, because I wanted her loved ones to feel what it was like without her. I wanted them to feel the loss of her, though Essbaum did not go into that, I imaged Bruno being relieved, and that just made it all the sadder.

Anna’s entire life was a tragedy, read Hausfrau to understand.


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