Hausfrau 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.