Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander EssbaumHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum seems to be the ‘it’ book being talked about right now. The media push behind it is tremendous, but reviews of it seem to be all over the place. The range from ‘best book of the decade, a must read’ to ‘huh? what’s all the hype about?’. I fall somewhere in the middle.

What you need to know:

  • Essbaum is a noted poet. This explains why I liked her writing so much. When she talks about German and learning a language, her prose is beautiful and insightful. Totally ticked all my boxes.


  • Essbaum is a noted erotic poet. This explains why there are so many graphically described sex scenes. Not to give too much away, but Hausfrau is basically a book about a woman cheating on her husband. That isn’t so much my thing.


  • Essbaum has lived as an expat. This explains why she just gets it. I have lived as a stranger in a strange land on more than one occasion, so I could really relate to that side of the story. It can be lonely and frustrating. The friendships that are formed are not necessarily those that would form if you were back on home territory, but they serve their purpose.

My conclusion is this: I really liked Essbaum’s writing and would certainly read her again. I probably liked Hausfrau more than I would have if it had been set in the United States because of the expat angle. I think Hausfrau is going to get a major Mother’s Day push, especially given the cover, but I don’t know that I’d buy it for my mom.

Thank you to my friends at Random House Canada for providing me with a copy of this book.


  1. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year. I thought it was very, very clever how the story unfolds with her visits to her therapist and her learning German as a backdrop. And as you noted, the writing is perfection.

  2. I pretty much agree with your thoughts on this book. It’s not my usual type of book, but something grabbed me (I am guessing it was the writing and the structure of the book, which I liked a lot) and I became invested in her story. I think the best thing about it is all the discussion surrounding it. Who doesn’t love a good book discussion?

  3. I was one of those “huh, why all the hype?” people. But, I had no idea Essbaum is a noted erotic poet…seriously?! Love little tidbits like that. And, I did like the expat angle as well..I loved her take on the Swiss culture and people (and her writing about those topics). And, while I haven’t lived as an expat before, I have moved to a new city not really knowing anyone and had to try to make new friends while having young children – it’s not easy.
    Great way to tackle a book that has already been reviewed to the hilt!

  4. hahahahaha oh man, I would NEVER buy this for my mother! If you had no idea, you really might buy it for mom and then you’d have a weird conversation.
    I really liked this one. I think that a big part of that was how beautiful the writing was – there was a certain cadence and structure to it that really made it sing for me. I can see why people might have an issue with it – she’s got this seemingly great life and she’s not participating in it properly – but I think that this is a book you really need to unpack and discuss.

  5. I liked this one a lot, but I didn’t love it. It’s good, and I’m very curious to see Essbaum’s next novel (assuming there will be one.) The thought of this book being purchased for Mother’s Day made me laugh in horror, but then I realized I would love for Hawthorne to buy me a book like this one day because that would mean he understands vaguely the kind of books I like to read (he is only eight months so old, so the idea is very abstract!) But to picture a mom who reads pop fiction getting this for Mother’s Day because of the flowers and not knowing what it’s about? Hilarious!

  6. Pingback: Cover Wars: Hausfrau | 52 books or bust

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