Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What we're listening to: Contemporary Fiction

[Cover]In poet Jill Alexander Essbaum's debut novel, Anna Benz is an American woman in her late 30s, married to a Swiss banker and living in Zurich. After 10 years of marriage and three children, Anna still feels adrift in the new country, without a job or a car of her own, and with a meager knowledge of the fundamentals of German. Her husband, Bruno, is cold and distant, and her mother-in-law treats her with disdain or occasional cold politeness. To alleviate her loneliness, Anna finds solace in relationships with other men that are meaningless but difficult to give up.

Hausfrau evokes Anna Karenina in modern times, both by its subject and its writing style. A thorough look at one couple's unhappy marriage is combined with the writer's lyrical prose and a hefty dose of psychology to create a book that is heartrendingly honest and compelling as much as it is bleak and thoughtful. Essbaum's candid, explicit language creates a refreshing and enjoyable contrast to the lyrical writing.

Despite its bleak outlook, I thought this book was a worthy read and would make a great book club selection. It is not only an examination of a failing marriage but also a deeply psychological look at what it is to be in control of one's own life.

Talented narrator Mozhan Marno makes the audiobook a pleasure to listen to with her confident but lyrical voice. Her narration translates the gravity and the melancholy from the first sentence to the dramatic ending. The German words used throughout the book are another reason I preferred to listen rather than read.

Editor's note: Although Anush listened to this, we also have it in both book and e-book formats.

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