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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

****hausfrau, by jill alexander essbaum

  • Debut novel
  • Early Reviewer's edition
  • To be published on March 34, 2015
  • Author: American born - Texas 1971 - a published poet, writer and professor
  • Her poetry is known for its erotic and religious imagery, both central themes in Hausfrau.
  • Below is an example of a poem which was featured in a New York Time's article on January 5, 2012, written by Katherine Schulten. This piece is centered around time and our ephemeral lives.
by Jill Essbaum

The border
of a thing. 

Its edge
or hem.

The selvage,
the skirt,

a perimeter's 

The blow
of daylight's

end and

A fence

or a rim
a margin,

a fringe.
And this:

the grim,


the lapse
of passage

That slim

lip of land,
the liminal

that slips

you past
your brink.

and when

  • Setting
    • Dietlikon, Switzerland, which is close to Zurich
      • suburban home next to and over-shadowed by the Grossmunster Cathedral
    • Contemporary setting
  • Main Characters
    • Anna Benz, hausfrau, 29 yrs, born & raised in USA
    • Bruno Benz, husband, 35 yrs, born in Switzerland
    • 3 young Benz children:  Victor, Charles & Polly Jean
    • Ursula: Bruno's mother
    • Doktor Messerli, Anna's Jungian psychologist
    • various men - Anna's lovers
      • I have listed these lovers as one entity because it is not any one individual that is important. More so, it is the purpose they serve collectively to Anna psyche that is of primarily significance.
  • Vocabulary
    • hausfrau - German for 1. Housewife, homemaker. 2. A married woman
    • intumescent- state of being swollen or swelling up
    • milquetoast - a timid or spineless person, esp one capable of being intimidated
    • shibboleth  - a catchword or common saying Review
If you liked Portrait of a Lady, Madame Bovary, The Lover, Anna Karenina, Lady Chatterley's Lover, or the like, you will love Hausfrau.  The emotionally charged behavior portrayed through these heroines is similarly depicted in Hausfrau, Essbaum's character driven novel. You may or may not like the heroine, but are unable to pull oneself from the grip of her pathos.

Essbaum's background as a poet is evidenced by the lyric quality of her narrative. It is both eloquent and luminous. Despite the darkness of the subject matter it is quite beautifully written. The protagonist deconstructs at an escalating pace but with poetic grace. Depression and anxiety play back and forth between deeply insightful observations as the protagonist examines her life with help of her Jungian therapist.

In the end there are no clear-sighted conclusions, only consequences and possibilities, not all of which are strictly positive or negative.  Which way things unfold is left to the reader's imagination - not as a conclusive final course, but as a meditative reflection. One that looks back at us and the obsessions we partake in order to hide from our personal realities.

Hausfrau is an exceptional debut novel. I look forward to future literary works from this talented author.

  • Quotes (from uncorrected proof)
    • "Shame is psychic extortion. Shame lies. Shame a woman and she will believe she is fundamentally wrong, organically delinquent. The only confidence she will have will be in her failures. You will never convince her otherwise." 
    • "Novelty's a cloth that wears thin at an alarming rate."
    • "A lonely woman is a dangerous woman. A lonely woman is a bored woman.  Bored women act on impulse."
    • "No coincidence is chance. Synchronicity is the external manifestation of an inner reality."
    • "An obsession is a defense against feeling out of control. A compulsion is the failure of that defense."
    • "Where you were is never as relevant as where you are."
    • "Hubris is every heroine's assassin."
    •  Pain is an impatient customer. It isn't long before it demands attention.

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