hausfrau the affair

Read This, Watch That: Hausfrau and The Affair

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House on March 17, 2015 
Source: Publisher 
Pages: 336
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Though Anna Benz has every reason to be happy, she struggles to find true connection as she drifts through her expatriate life in Zürich with her Swiss husband and three children. Hoping to find something to keep her afloat, Anna reaches out to a Jungian therapist, starts taking German lessons and begins a series of extramarital affairs as her life quickly falls apart.

A fast paced plot takes a backseat to incredible writing in Hausfrau, as the novel digs into the narrator’s past and present in an effort to make sense of her choices. Essbaum plays with language in wonderful ways, pulling Anna’s thoughts through a thesaurus of meanings and breaking them down to explain her emotions.

“This is a good thing I am doing, Anna said inside herself, though ‘good’ was hardly the right word. Anna knew this. What she meant was expedient. What she meant was convenient. What she meant was wrong in nearly every way but justifiable as it makes me feel better, and for so very long I have felt so very, very bad.”

Though Anna’s trajectory is somewhat predictable, Essbaum’s writing makes the journey with a flawed but recognizable character an intriguing and even enjoyable one.


The Affair (Showtime)

If you need a few more twists and turns to enjoy a plot, but know you’re intrigued by Hausfrau‘s themes, The Affair may be just what you’re looking for. The show follows struggling writer Noah Solloway and waitress Alison Bailey who meet when Noah and his family arrive in the small town of Montauk for the summer. Told in separate narratives, which allows viewers to see the same events from both Noah and Allison’s perspectives, The Affair examines both the causes and the effects of the pair’s summer-long affair.

Even if you don’t have Showtime, the network offers a sneak peek of the first episode to get you hooked. Or if you just want to see Pacey Witter all grown up.



  • I’m about 1/4 through Hausfrau right now and not sure it’s up my alley…I’m a big underwhelmed so far, though I have been highlighting a lot. BUT – I absolutely LOVED The Affair…maybe completely addicted is a better word? Can’t wait for season 2!

  • On the hold list at the library for this one! I really enjoyed The Affair-loved the different POVs and narration shown on the screen…and yessss…all grown up Pacey! ;)

  • I’m reading this right now! I’ve heard some mixed things, so we’ll see how it goes.

  • I loved this book, as you know. I haven’t seen The Affair..hmmm. I might just have to start watching that :D

  • I have had to think about Hausfrau a lot since I read it to figure out what I thought of it. I really enjoyed it while I was reading, but when it was over I wasn’t quite sure why – I felt as if I’d read that story before several times over. Since then, I’ve decided that it was the writing that got me, and the way the story was put together. Your review is right on.
    I have never seen The Affair, but that’s probably a good thing. :)

    • I can hang on through most stories if the writing pulls me in. I agree that the plot wasn’t a completely unique one, but the prose was fantastic.

  • Ti Reed

    I have read a lot of mixed reviews for this one lately. I still want to read it at some point. It does seem like something I’d like, even though some of found it sort of anti-climactic.

    • I think many readers have a difficult time with this type of female character, at least from what I’ve read…I’ve always been drawn to them.

  • I really liked Hausfrau but I think a lot of people are having trouble with it because there’s not a lot to identify with for the average person. She has a pretty great life, why isn’t she satisfied? But not everyone is wired that way. As for The Affair! My husband and I could not stop watching it. So fantastic. We could not figure out how a second season would come of it. Until we finished it.

    • I felt from the beginning of the novel that Anna was pretty deep into depression, which would make feeling satisfied nearly impossible, regardless of her wonderful life. I think it would also explain why some readers are having an easier time connecting with her and the story than others are.

      Really looking forward to more of The Affair!

  • I love that excerpt – I think this will be one that will get me by its writing, rather than the subject. Since eeeveryone is reading or requesting this one from the library now, I think I’ll try to read it over the summer!

    • The writing is SO lovely – really tangled (I think that’s the best way I can describe it!) like the excerpt.

  • Hausfrau has been on my TBR list for a while, so I hope to get to it soon. I’m really wondering if it will measure up to the hype surrounding it, since the reviews are so mixed across the board.

    • It definitely seems to be hit or miss – hope it works for you!

    • Kate

      Hausfrau is a book that will divide but all the best books do, don’t they? I would rather read a book that has both 1 star and 5 star reviews than a book that is a consistent ‘3’!

      • I agree, Kate. I prefer to form my own opinion and not pay much attention to ratings, anyway because they are so skewed with criteria; everyone’s scale seems to be different.

  • Gosh, I just loved Hausfrau! I haven’t watched The Affair, but I’ve heard such great things about it; I do not have a subscription to Showtime, but I might be willing to purchase it from Amazon or wait until it hits one of the other subscription services (after season is over). You’ve definitely got me interested, Shannon! :)

  • I’m about a third of the way through Hausfrau, and I love the language and how fluidly the narrative moves around in time. Now I’m wishing I had Showtime!

    • Yes! That’s totally what got me, too…I think you’ll end up loving it through the rest of the novel, too.

  • Amanda

    Oh I so want to see the Affair! I’m still kind of not over Hausfrau.

    • You should definitely watch it!!

      • Amanda

        The hubs just started a new job and I’m hoping Showtime is in the new budget!

  • Kate

    Great post! Hausfrau has been my first 5/5 read this year (and will possibly be my only – I don’t hand out 5 stars willy-nilly). Agee, the writing is exceptional.
    I’m in the middle of watching The Affair and must say, I’m still undecided. I think I’m not fully engaged because I find Noah just repulsive! Is that a good reason?! :-/

  • I love these book and movie match-ups. So fun!

  • The writing is impeccable. I feel like none of my other 5-star reviews count! hahaha
    I’m still recovering from this book. Sigh.

  • Diana

    Did you see the NYT review? They hated Hausfrau! Now I’m conflicted!

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  • I heard the author on NPR this Saturday and I don’t know what to think … but I’m still curious to check out the book.

  • Ohh my, The Affair looks all sorts of juicy.

  • REALLY irritating we haven’t had The Affair in the UK when the two leads (Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, who’s fabulous!) are British. Didn’t see much of Pacey (well, Joshua Jackson) in the trailer – I hadn’t seen him do anything since Dawson’s Creek apart from be one half of a gorgeous couple with Diane Kruger. And Abbey from ER! I was thinking of a film – Unfaithful, Google tells me. Diane Lane was superb. God I STILL need to read Hausfrau. I’m not sure if I’ll like it – everybody says Anna’s cold – which I can deal with. But too many sex scenes makes me feel I’ve grabbed a copy of THAT book by mistake…

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