Hausfrau

Intense. Surprisingly addictive. Mounting intrigue. Anna is an American who has to all intent and purposes met and fallen in love with a Swiss called Bruno. He is tall good-looking, unwavering, and candid in his opinions. She has lived in Switzerland for 9 years and still doesn’t speak German fluently. Her life is evolving as if on autopilot. Switzerland and its people don’t seem to want to let her in or is it that she doesn’t want to fit in. After living 9 years in Germany the reader could probably assume that Anna doesn’t want to fit in (that’s what I assumed) and that she is just simply an unreliable narrator. However, I’d say that is not exactly the case.

hausfrauAnna is often very honest about her feelings to the reader and about the various events she goes through. She is also very clever with her scrutiny and descriptions of the different characters she has relationships with. The third person voice acts like a journal, where we hear her every thought – her fears, her loneliness, her desires.  Hausfrau has a similar voice that seems to be common at the moment in a few popular contemporary novels – female voice that’s raw and direct i.e. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, etc. Fortunately, Anna’s voice is not annoying but realistic. Actually at some point, I felt sorry for her (didn’t last long) even though most of her problems stem from her incapacity to make proper choices and to evolve to something better.

Hausfrau’s structure is what gives it an originality that makes it interesting.  It explores more than just a  discontented housewife who’s trapped by home chores and such.   That’s because oddly enough most of the time we follow Anna when she’s outside of the house. The juxtaposition of German language grammar and pertinent statements and questions from her psychoanalyst, between reading about Anna’s dalliances, disclose thought-provoking reasons why Anna has difficulty adapting to life in Switzerland. In no way are all of those questions answered but there is a brilliant case made for how important some life decisions are and how they can affect us for the rest of our lives. The onset of Hausfrau felt like a typical unhappy housewife story, but in spite of that beginning it gradually won me over with its structure. It’s like reading about a train wreck ready to happen, but it’s a quick read and full of lots of twists and turns that will keep you entertained. The weaknesses of Hausfrau – the predictable ending and I would have liked to see Anna evolve into a stronger woman as the story unfolded, but she seems to remain unchanging in character, no development. She didn’t even seem desperate towards the end. It seems this type of contemporary novel featuring weak women is becoming regrettably trendy. Even though, it’s definitely a good read and looking forward to Essbaum’s future novels and I may even try to pick one of her other poetry collections.

Have you guys read Hausfrau? If so what did you think?

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28. The Senator's Wife

This is the very first novel that I’ve read by Sue Miller.   I think she’s known for writing about women and relationships.  I was really surprised to say the least.  There was a scene that knocked me off my seat.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I would have never thought of it.  In spite of everything, the first half of the book was a bit of a bore.  There was a lot of character development, which was useful but slowed the story down.  Around the middle of the story I became more interested.  I didn’t like any of the characters because they are all extremely flawed.  Meri is a snoop and very unsure of herself.  Delia is overly confident but naive in love.  Nathan is insensitive and arrogant.  Tom the senator is self-centered, egotistical philanderer.

Meri and Nathan are a young couple house hunting for their new home.  They decide to buy the old house that they are looking at and it happens to be connected to Delia’s house who is the senator’s wife.  From the moment the couple moves in, their lives connect with  Delia’s to transform each other forever.

I’m not sure I understand what Sue Miller is trying to say in this book but it’s not very feminist if she is.  Actually, I suspect she is just trying to give a point of view about relationships.  For one thing, the novel is very well written.  I learned a few new vocabulary words.  I’ll be cautious to choose another Sue Miller book though.  I’ll ask my avid reader friends to steer me to a really good one or just read The Good Mother (the one that’s often mentioned).

Sue Miller published her first novel in 1986, The Good Mother.  Since she was a single mother, she didn’t have much time to devote to writing; although now she’s made up for that after publishing ten books and two of them have been adapted to film – The Good Mother (1988) and Inventing the Abbotts (1997).  She is now a professor teaching creative writing classes at Smith College.