Published by Random House on March 17, 2015
Genres: Literary Fiction
(I have done my best to avoid spoilers, but this post contains vague references to Hausfrau’s ending. Readers who don’t want to be spoiled might want to stop reading.)
Rarely has a day passed in the last few weeks that I haven’t seen at least one review of Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum in my feed reader. Narrated by an American expat living with her Swiss husband and three small children in a suburb of Zurich, this novel deals with isolation, depression, and infidelity. Anna Benz half-heartedly attends German language lessons, undergoes Jungian analysis, and embarks on a series of emotionless affairs as she struggles to find fulfillment. But how long can her lies build up around her before they come crashing down?
I really enjoyed reading this book. Anna is a dark, twisty, and fascinating character; the writing is stunning; and I loved how fluidly the narrative moves around in time. Essbaum does some truly amazing things with language, and the way Anna’s sessions with her analyst are woven into the story is wonderfully done.
But. (You knew there was going to be a but, right?) Somewhere along the line, I read a blurb comparing Hausfrau to a certain classic novel, and I immediately guessed how the book would end. When I finished reading, I may have yelled at my e-reader in frustration, not just with the ending, but with the way it is executed. And this isn’t to say the ending isn’t fitting. (It does fit, but I also kind of hate that it doesn’t break from tradition.) The final line is swift and subtle, and it is still haunting me a week later. But what really bothers me is that the comparison to another book effectively spoiled it for me.
Book comparisons can be a powerful recommendation tool. I’ve used them myself on this blog. (Ex: Three Books The Bell Jar Fans Will Love.) Telling readers, “Hey, if you liked this book, you’ll probably like this one too,” is a great way to introduce them to new books. But as Hausfrau proves, they can also spoil certain elements of a book for some readers. It seems like such a thin line to walk. When does a book comparison go from being a useful way to recommend a book to giving away too much information?
Have you ever been spoiled by a blurb comparing one book to another?