Hausfrau – Zurich, Switzerland – Jill Alexander Essbaum

HF

Why a booktrail?

A Hausfrau is a German word for Housewife, homemaker and wife. None of these descriptions is one which Anna Benz feels suits her. Anna was a good wife, mostly….Now you may want to 

Story in a nutshell

“Anna was a good wife mostly, – well you just know that  the story is not going to be a happy one. Anna Benz is married and lives unhappily in Dietlikon in Zurich. We meet her sitting in the therapist’s chair, she spills out her secrets – of one affair after the other, of her life in Zurich, of her husband, their children and how she feels lost in the maze of it all.

A terrible chain of events is unfolding and one which will have the most terrible consequences. The Swiss obsession for order, time keeping and the quiet life which Anna has always rejected is about to be her ultimate downfall.

We thought this a mix of ‘Fifty Shades meets Gone Girl’ – it creates a depressing but reckless and absorbing read.

Place and setting

Rosenweg st, Bulach district, Zurich  Anna and her family live here Trittligasse Where the doctor has her surgery and where Anna gets her treatment Nierdorf The central tram stop is near Archi’s flat as is the Stadelhofen train staton Anna meets Archie from the German class who lives here and they have an affair. Kirchgemeindehaus The church near The son’s school Aldstadt where the churches areon and the Fraumunster with its chagall windows - Wasserkirche Griefensee where Mary lives Kanton Aargau Bruno’s sister daniela lives here Kloten An affair with Karl leads Anna here The Zurich Zoo A scene of distress and anguish and it all started so innocently as these things tend to do.
Rosenweg st, Bulach district, Zurich
Anna and her family live here
Trittligasse
Where the doctor has her surgery and where Anna gets her treatment
Nierdorf
The central tram stop is near Archi’s flat as is the Stadelhofen train staton
Anna meets Archie from the German class who lives here and they have an affair.
Kirchgemeindehaus
The church near Anna’s son’s school
Aldstadt
where the churches areon and the Fraumunster with its chagall windows – Wasserkirche
Grifiensee
where Mary lives
Kanton Aargau
Bruno’s sister Daniela lives here
Kloten
An affair with Karl leads Anna here
The Zurich Zoo
A scene of distress and anguish and it all started so innocently as these things tend to do.

For information on all these destinations please visit – http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/destinations/holiday-destinations-in-switzerland/zurich-region1.html

Quiet, orderly and unassuming Zurich is the setting here for an explosive and reckless life which spirals into chaos and tragedy. The calmness and snow capped mountains evoke a paradise setting but this one is marred with tragedy and despair. The mountains might be cloaked in a shroud of beautiful snow but what lies beneath is ugly and dark.

As Anna stumbles from one event in his life to another, there is a gradual reveal of her vision of Zurich and Switzerland. The efficient trains bore her for they run like clockwork, the town despite its shops and ornate buildings is described as Menchlich, Offen, Modern – Personal, Open, Modern but Anna begs to differ. It is her husband’s home town and one which was guaranteed to provide a good place to bring their children up.

Dietlikon –

It was close enough to Zurich to be met by two city trains. It was near a large shopping centre. Its roads were safe and the houses were well kept and the town’s motto held great promise

Contrasting with this Anna and her rather different motto, then the scene is set for  chaos. As we follow her around the city, from one over’s home to another, from one secret meeting place to another we’re also reminded of the Swiss calmness and neat exterior contrasting with the chaos that is Anna herself – They live on Rosenweg street which Anna calls ‘Last Exit road’

Switzerland – 

She thought about Switzerland. Where a smile will give you away as an American. Where what isn’t taboo is de rigeuer. Cold , efficient Switzerland. Where the women are comely and the men are wel groomed and everyone wears a determined face. Switxerland. The roof of Europe. Glacier carved.

The landscape featured in the novel – from the Kirchgemeindehaus near to her son’s school, the zoo, the Griefensee castle and area where Mary and her family live, the picture of Swiss lifestyle is evoked and explored via a contrasting racy and raw plot

Swiss German efficiency

To evoke the landscape through the language of the country  – the accusative case in German – which ‘points a bony finger in her direction ‘ even that becomes something which she rejects. the language and its hard accusing tone. The declension of words is like their identity – their grammatical uniform. And as Anna learns German, she likens it to the rigidity of her life. an interesting mix of language and life merging in a novel.

Bookish musings

OMG

It took me a while to get over this book – I had a Hausfrau hangover from hell for days. It was like a slap in the face as even from the blurb I had no idea I was going to be dragged through Anna’s affairs in quite as  graphic a way as I was. Being on the therapist’s chair was a new experience for me as well and contrasting the inner demons of Anna with her picture perfect surroundings was just well very raw and thought provoking. It was a fantastic and utterly absorbing read!

As I closed the last page, I was stunned as I wasn’t sure how on earth this was going to play out. I read the book in one sitting as I knew I was headed down a slippery slope with Anna but like car crash TV, I just couldn’t take my eyes of her and what would happen. Of course the first line – ‘Anna was a good wife, mostly’ was the spark that lit the fuse for me.

I would never live like this in real life so to spend time with someone who would was at first shocking, incendiary and raw. With the graphic sex scenes and references, this is not the book for shy types. Even the German language gets in on the act – with ‘its accusative case’ pointing the finger. And even the speaking of  it ‘ jumps out from the back of your throat’

Switzerland with its four official languages and insular identity ‘closed at the edges’ proves to be the ideal setting for this raw, bitter tale of one woman and her descent into a spiral of unspeakable tragedy

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4 thoughts on “Hausfrau – Zurich, Switzerland – Jill Alexander Essbaum

  1. Great review – I also found it a compelling read, although it was uncomfortable at times, and it has stayed vividly in my mind since I’ve finished it. As I live in Switzerland I could recognise the places and sympathise with some of Anna’s problems, which made the book even more haunting.

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