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3.24  ·  Rating details ·  14,536 ratings  ·  2,560 reviews
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.

haus·frau \haus-frau\ n 1: Origin: German.
Housewife, homemaker. 2: A married woman. 3: A novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Anna was a good wife, mostly.

Anna Benz, an American
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by Random House
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Angela Elizabeth Extraordinary book - to assume that any book that includes graphic sex scenes must be trash is extremely narrow-minded. I would recommend anyone read …moreExtraordinary book - to assume that any book that includes graphic sex scenes must be trash is extremely narrow-minded. I would recommend anyone read this who is interested in sophisticated storytelling and nuanced female characters.(less)
Cheyenne Wilson No, but why would you think this is science fiction?

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A well-written novel about a depressive, narcissistic American expat in Zurich which I can't say I really enjoyed. It has been compared to Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, presumably because the central character (also an Anna) feels trapped in an unfulfilling marriage and because it is obviously building to a grand tragic climax. But to me the voice is positioned in a much more consciously American tradition; actually Anna reminds me of no one so much as Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar, which
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” – Joan Crawford

The last sentence of this book is still ringing in my head. I cannot tell you what a delight and challenge it was to read. It’s no surprise that Essbaum is first a poet, second a novelist. This book was gripping, extremely sensual, raw and biting, and incredibly sad. That being said, it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Outwardly, Anna seems like a per
The book had me at the first line: “Anna was a good wife, mostly.” Anna, a complicated woman with a secret life, is in a constant state of longing, shame, and self-loathing. She is unfaithful to her husband but faithful to her soul-searching. But who wants to keep reading a book about an unfaithful wife who feels shitty? I wanted to keep reading because of how well-drawn Anna is, because of the art that Essbaum uses to develop her, because of the way Essbaum beckoned me to enter Anna’s head and ...more
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Carmen by: LTWF
"It's thrilling, isn't it?"

Yes, Anna thought. Adultery's a blast.

It wasn't until page 292 of this 320 page book that I realized that this was (view spoiler) Well done, Essbaum.

That's one of the few compliments I can give this book.

In general, it was a horrible book - depressing and a waste of time.

Anna is an expat. An American who married a Swiss and now lives in Switzerland with her husband and three children. She has a series of extramarital affair
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sex. Adulterous sex. Adulterous sex in Europe. Adulterous sex in Europe by an unlikable expat, playing the role of mother and wife at home.

Doesn't it sound grand? I mean, maybe not grand, but interesting, at least. I confess I have a fascination with books that deal with relationships and monogamy and all the complexities therein. That's why I read John Updike, who had what one might call an unhealthy obsession with adultery, its trappings and its failings. That's why I picked up this book, too.
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
I spent most of yesterday reading this book (I just couldn't stop), but I waited until this morning to mark it as completed because I couldn't decide for the life of me if I wanted to rate this 4 or 5 stars. For now, I'm putting it at a 5. This is one of those books that gets me irritated...but at myself. Let me tell you why.

I received this book on NetGalley back in 2015. I had just joined and requested a bunch of titles thinking that I wouldn't get approved for anything, but surprise, surprise,
Debbie "DJ"
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, psychology
Oh dear lord, it's time to review Hausfrau. Hmmm. Well? Okay, I'm off. I always appreciate good writing, and it was superb here. Also, I love being inside a characters head, and thoughts, also, great here. Just a few problems. While the main character, Anna, has moved away from the states to Switzerland to get married? I don't hear too much about love, although maybe a little in her flashbacks to the beginning. After that I felt all the interruptions and talk of Switzerland, a bit clunky. They f ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Idarah
I enjoyed this a lot. On the surface it appears to be a simple tale of a bored housewife seeking the excitement and attentions of extramarital affairs and eventually reaping the consequences. But there is much more here that engaged my mind and emotions. Her sexual escapades are thrilling and incredibly erotic. But as the character deconstructs in looking for love in all the wrong places, we struggle mightily to construct her, and we are never sure whether we want to hug her or shake her.

Anna B
I’m pretty sure that I didn’t like this. I’m giving it a note of uncertainty mostly because it is possible that maybe I also did. It depends on whether it's about what I think it's about. I hope I'm wrong- so many people liked this. Let’s find out, shall we?

So, if I’m right, this is the story of Anna the housewife. She lives in Zurich with her banker husband and three children. She is natively American, but followed her husband when he returned home, after he told her, “I think I want to marry y
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Caroline by: Debbie

No doubt about it, Jill Alexander Essbaum took a risk with Hausfrau. The protagonist is a 37-year-old woman who engages in a series of affairs; as unlikable main characters go, the titular hausfrau (housewife), Anna, is up there. Some initial buzz dubbed Hausfrau something along the lines of Madame Bovary meets Fifty Shades of Grey, but unfortunately, readers looking for a true cross between these will need to keep searching. What’s here is depressing at the same time it’s hyper
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015
I have a dirty little confession - I am drawn to flawed and "unlikeable" protagonists, especially women. They absolutely fascinate me.

Anna Benz is one of those women. From the deceptively simple and innocuous book title and cover comes a complicated tale of a deeply unhappy woman who is a curious mix of apathy and passion, passivity and impulsiveness, self destructiveness and self preservation. She alternates between startling insightful observations about herself and her situation and an incred
Cathrine ☯️
Mar 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
This novel is saturated with passages that read thusly: 'Anna had loved Stephen, or thought she had. Anna thought she still loved Stephen, though she wasn’t sure. But Anna did love Polly Jean, and in a way that was like loving Stephen.’

It seems that the author wanted to write this, her first novel, though she wasn’t sure. But then she did write it, but did not love her characters, but in a way, because she wrote it, she wanted us to love it, and that was like her loving them enough to write it.
Julie Christine
That morning’s German lesson left Anna pensive. The German language, like a woman, has moods. On occasion they are conditional, imperative, indicative, subjunctive. Hypothetical, demanding, factual, wishful. Wistful, bossy, of blunted affect, solicitous. Longing, officious, anhedonic, pleading. Anna tried to make a list of every mood she’d ever been in but ran out of words before even half her feelings were named.

This is a curious insight into Anna Benz, because the eponymous Hausfrau seems
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Hausfrau is a strange little book. In some ways I respected it and appreciated its strengths, but I never felt close to it. It never sucked me into its world or made my heart clench or my thoughts race. It's technically strong but also technically weak.

Anna is an American woman in Switzerland, with a somewhat aloof and at times cruel Swiss husband and three children. She's lived the Swiss life for years but still feels like an outcast - she doesn't know the language, has few friends, doesn't pa
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"A bored woman is a dangerous woman." Anyone who has ever read Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina knows that this saying is true. Emma Bovary is a bored married woman who seeks to escape life’s banality through affairs. And Anna Karenina, arguably the more interesting woman, seeks solace from her cold, emotionless husband through her affair with the far more dashing Vronsky.

Why do I begin this review with a look at Emma and Anna? Largely because Anna Benz, a displaced American woman living in a Zuri
2.5 Stars

Well, I've certainly got Hausfrau out of my system, (for good) and have to say, I really did not care for this story of a "haphazardly moral" dysfunctional housewife who has "descriptive" sex with anyone of the male persuasion who passes her way. Anna is one sick (and sad) woman, I grant you that, and how did the author put it......."She's cheating on the man she's cheating on her husband with." Good Lord!

Anyway, I was pretty much bored with the whole shebang until about three quarters

Jul 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read

The title could have been 'The Glass Castle'. That's how American expat Anna Benz insulated and isolated herself from her new life in Switzerland. She observed everything around her but never participated in the new life she and Bruno created for their nuclear family of five. Anna and Bruno had three children and lived a comfortable life with Bruno the banker providing for her and the children. She was a stay-at-home mom. The German efficiency and disciplined society, even the trains are exactly
Elyse  Walters
Anna Benz, main character of "Hausfrau", is a psychologically complex female character.
"Her relationship with sex was a convoluted partnership that rose from both passivity and as unassailable desire to be distracted. And wanted. She wanted to be wanted."

Anna is lonely, bored, & unsatisfied in a foreign country with her husband and three children. She does not drive, relying on public transportation or from her mother-in-law, who lives near by. Her husband Bruno is in the Banking bu
“A LONELY WOMAN IS a dangerous woman.” Doktor Messerli spoke with grave sincerity. “A lonely woman is a bored woman. Bored women act on impulse.”

Anna an American, is married to a gruff man whom she once loved, in Anna’s peculiar way. In a country so different to that of her birth, she does not fit. She is bored, restless and ill at ease in every aspect of her life. An American woman in Switzerland. Much of this prose is centred around the German classes she attends, and the formal structure and
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, debut
The Hook - Hausfrau promised an unlikable character and it delivered.

The Line”Anna was a good wife, mostly”
immediately I wanted to know what that meant.

The SinkerHausfrau is one of those books that causes passionate differences in opinion, you either love it or you hate it. It wasn’t clear to me where I stood until I had read over half the book. There are many that will not agree with me but no apologies here. I really liked Essbaum’s debut in the end.

Anna Benz, the mostly good wife,
Diane S ☔
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 This is Anna's story, married mother of three, came from the US to Switzerland from the USA, she feels she will never really fit in. This is Anna's story and therein is the rub, the reader must feel something for Anna, identify with her or her circumstances in some way, and I never did. She and how she handled or did not handle things, irritated me. I did feel sympathy for her at times, but it was for all the terrible things that happened to her, not her internal struggles. But that was anot ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: PW 1/12/15
Shelves: own, read2017
I first heard about this book from Publishers Weekly in January 2015, then found a brand new hardcover at a book sale for $3 later that year. But it languished in a pile of books I didn't have space for, so I rediscovered this book in my collection last weekend.

The story is very unputdownable. The first line, "Anna was a good wife, mostly," hooked me in and I wanted to know more about her. Anna married a Swiss man and is living an isolated life in Switzerland. She is depressed and isolated, part
Here's the One Positive Thing I have to say about this book: At about the 70% mark, Something Actually Happens. What's more, it's the first genuinely surprising and somewhat affecting Thing That Happens up to that point. The book then deteriorates back to its previous suckiness level. However, a good editor would have been able to take this 70%-point benchmark, then incorporate a few other decent moments from the last 30% of the book, patch these around the nucleus of the 70% bit, excise the ent ...more
Wow. This will be a hard one to review. I typically read books about very strong women, those who overcome society's roadblocks and restrictions, who make their own way in the world. But this character of Anna is not that. She is an American living in her husband's native Switzerland. A lonely and bored mother and housewife to whom the Swiss still haven't given any sense of belonging, she is undergoing psychoanalysis and attending German classes. Her analyst says that Anna is a passive personali ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 STARS

Oh my goodness I soooo thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn’t wait to get back to it each time I got pulled away by life’s silly demands like mealtime, work, and sleep! Told through the voice of Anna Benz, sometimes during her sessions with her psychiatrist Dr. Messerli, the story moves back and forth between past to present, at times with confusing fluidity, but so cleverly crafted and addictively irresistible that I felt I was residing inside Anna’s head, an extension of her thou
(Nearly 4.5) Jill Alexander Essbaum’s arresting debut novel reads like a modern retelling of Madame Bovary, with its main character a desperate housewife in Zurich. (I enjoyed this virtual tour she offers of the novel’s settings.)

American expat Anna Benz has no cause to complain about life. Her banker husband Bruno provides for her needs and she has three beloved children. Still, Anna has never felt at home despite nine years in Switzerland. She is virtually friendless and can hardly communicate
noun, plural hausfraus, hausfrauen [hous-frou-uh n]
1. a housewife.
Origin: German, from Haus house + Frau woman, wife


Jill Alexander Essbaum's Hausfrau gives readers a snapshot of an American woman's life, Anna, over the course of a few years while living in Zurich, Switzerland with her husband and children. Actually, it's more a snapshot of her mood and how it influences her overall behavior (FYI: there is a notable amount of sexual content and dialogue). In my opinion, there
Nov 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Unfortunately, cannot finish this one. The protagonist is so relentlessly dull and unlikable I'm afraid I will have to give up. I hate to give a negative review and maybe I'm putting it aside too soon, but I just don't think this book is for me.

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Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
I've been wracking my brain for two days now trying to write a review of this that wouldn't disparage my Goodreads Friends (whose opinions I value highly). Though the subject of cuckoldry appeals to me very little, I was intrigued by the disparity of the cume rating of all Goodreaders (3.38 at this writing) with the average rating of my friends who read it (3.85). Several of their eloquent reviews swayed me toward giving it a try, anyway, despite my misgivings.

About the only thing I really like
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy of Hausfrau. Readers be forewarned: despite the flowery cover and playful sounding title this is a very dark and sad book from beginning to end. Anna is an American expat living in Switzerland with her stern Swiss husband and three children. She is deeply lonely and isolated, feelings that pull her to make choices that leave her even more lonely and isolated. Essbaum writes very well and does an excellent job ...more
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