I read Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau for my book club, which I haven’t been to in FOREVER. I made a point to go to this one mostly because it was being hosted at the Random House office and I have a not-so-secret obsession with publishing houses. I also thought the author was going to be there, but instead she just Skyped in, which I actually preferred because people seemed to hold themselves back from saying the “wrong” thing in front of her. Oh, and I also thought her book sucked.
I thought this novel was cheesy and overly dramatic and also catered exclusively to women who are married/have kids. I couldn’t relate to most of things that went on in the narrator’s life, but older women at the book club meeting today seemed to understand it. The narrator, Anna, was a woman who drifted through her day-to-day life in passivity as she lived with her husband in his native Switzerland. During her nine years there, she never bothered to learn the language, get a job, meet any friends (she literally had one, who was actually kind of a badass), or even have some sort of hobby. She actually just let life pass her by, which was exactly as boring as it sounds like it’d be, and admitted to enjoying sewing as a girl before she majored in Home Economics (yes, exactly.) in college. A girl at the book club argued that she believed the narrator to be “actively passive,” meaning that she forced the passivity and did it all to herself. To an extent, I agree, but it was also very clear that Anna was severely depressed and couldn’t stop herself from isolating others. The book ends with Anna killing herself, confusing almost everyone that read it, but I thought in her suicide she was able to take control for the first time in a decision she’s made. I was also really happy she died off because I was utterly sick of her complaining and being a victim to every incident in her life.
Essbaum is a poet mainly and her book reads like extensive poetry as well. It has a great flow at times, however, I think her sentences read very dramatically and over-the-top. I found myself rolling my eyes and sighing most of the time as Anna or her psychiatrist went off on long inner monologues where, instead of letting readers figure out the metaphors and symbolism, she spelled them out in painfully long tangents. Overall, not a fan of this book, and I was surprised to see how many people there actually enjoyed it. I am, however, a fan of the Random House office and its desks full of books.