Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum is an intense book to the say the least. Do you ever read a book where the main character is someone you really dislike but still you are unable to tear yourself away? That is Hausfrau for me. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Mozhan Marno and she does an amazing job of portraying the main character of Anna in this story. To say the least I found myself addicted to listening to this story about a woman who is nothing but self-involved. And this is where the author’s superb writing skills come into the picture because she draws you into Anna’s life so fully that you find yourself needing to know more about this woman and why she acts out as she does and you can’t walk away until you do.
Anna describes herself as ‘a good wife, mostly’. She is a bored housewife who is very unhappy. She’s thirty-seven and living near Zurich with her husband Bruno and their three children. Anna is originally American and struggling with the language and ways in this new land. She’s seeing a therapist for her depression and taking a German language class. While this may all seem fairly normal, it isn’t. The way Anna chooses to deal with her issues is by having extramarital affairs and it seems the more risky they are the more excitement she feels. Yet even all of her affairs don’t seem to be making her happy and then one fateful day while she’s enjoying an afternoon of sexual bliss the unimaginable happens and Anna’s life spirals out of control.
Of course I didn’t like Anna. I thought her to be so selfishly involved in herself. She spent her time having affairs instead of with her children. She really has no ambition to be anything and that includes being a mother; she seems to have no friends or interests either. There just wasn’t anything to like about her and yet I can’t explain why I felt the need to continue listening to see what would become of this woman. I wonder if it was because I am so different from her that I was so fascinated by her need to systematically destroy her own life. I’m not sure but I do know that despite the seemingly dark tone of this book I really did like it and for me it was one of those compulsive type reads. It was like a train wreck that I couldn’t pull my eyes from.
I would recommend Hausfrau to those who enjoy literary fiction but be forewarned that there is quite a lot of raw sexuality in this book so if that isn’t something you can handle don’t pick this one up. It is however a novel that is still sticking in my mind. I listened to it a while back but could easily discuss it in an instant. Once again I have to mention that the audiobook is really well done. I think the subject matter of this book was all the more powerful in audio.
Source: Review copy received by the publisher for an honest review. No compensation was received.
The Dream Lover weaves fact with fiction as it takes us on a journey through the life of the French novelist George Sand. For those who don’t know (like me) George Sand was actually a woman who led quite the scandalous life for the 1800’s. She was a woman before her time who believed in equality for women and she just didn’t fit in the norm of your normal housewife of the times. Instead after a failed marriage she went on to have several affairs and live a life that consisted of parties and interaction with many of the important people who traveled in the world of artists. She is most well known for her writing and her affair with the composer Frederic Chopin.
When Sand left her husband she moved to Paris to write and there she began to wear men’s clothing and move in the circles of the people she most desired to associate herself with. She also had affairs with many men and even an actress named Marie. She enjoyed her life as a man because it gave her so much more freedom than she had as a woman. She would go out to cafes with men and sit and talk about plays, art, and writing – all the things that mattered to her. And there were many parties; she talks of parties that would go on until the next day. Her affairs were plentiful but it seemed she chose young men who she ended up having to take care of. The only person it seems she truly loved was the actress Marie but even they didn’t stay together.
The story almost comes across as a journal written by George Sand chronicling her life from childhood to her final days – her days, her writing, and her affairs. She reflects back on the turmoil of her childhood and the disagreements that her mother and grandmother continually had over her until her mother finally just leaves her in the care of her grandmother. I wonder if this didn’t shape the person she becomes in that it always seemed so easy for her to jump from one lover to another. She was always on the search for that one true love that kept alluding her.
I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Berg’s writing and I’ve read more of her books than I can count. I was reading her novels long before I even starting blogging and she’s an amazing writer. Being completely honest though her foray into historical fiction fell a bit flat for me and I think it’s because I just couldn’t like George Sand. She seemed very selfish to me; going from party to party, man to man. Many times when you read of a historical figure you feel some connection to them but I just didn’t feel that here. Really more than anything I felt sorry for her because it seemed that nothing other than her writing was ever truly enough for her.
With that being said it is still an interesting novel for historical fiction fans in that you do learn a lot about George Sand and that’s always a good thing but it didn’t leave me liking her or wanting to know more and that’s disappointing. I just wish I had felt more of a connection with George Sand and her life. What I did enjoy and what kept me interested in the book was that I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith and she really did a fantastic job of bringing the story and especially the time period alive for me. So while this one didn’t completely work for me I’m not sorry I read it and I still love Elizabeth Berg’s writing and look forward to her next novel.
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Source: Digital copy provided by the publisher for an honest review. Audiobook my personal copy. Giveaway sponsored by the publisher. No compensation was received.
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight is one of those novels that completely holds you in it’s grip from the first page to the last. It is both a psychological thriller and a book that will hit you emotionally. I could not pull myself away from it. I listened to the audiobook and I like nothing better than when a book has multiple narrators so I was excited to see that Where They Found Her did. The narrators are Tavia Gilbert (who I love), Lauren Fortgang, Rachel F. Hirsch, and Therese Plummer (who I love) and they do an incredible job of pulling together the separate story lines in this novel.
The storyline centers around a newborn baby that is found dead in the woods surrounding the town’s university. The town is in chaos. Who does the baby belong to? Why was she left there in the woods? Molly, a freelance journalist, who has recently moved to the town is given the task of heading down to the scene to cover the story. She has no idea that it’s a newborn that has been found and while this would be a hard case for anyone to cover it is especially hard for Molly. Molly recently lost a baby and is just finally pulling herself out of the depression that hit her afterwards. Still Molly feels that trying to find out what happened to this poor baby may help her heal so she begins to investigate and what she finds has the power to shake the whole community.
The novel is told from three points of view – Molly’s, Barbara’s, and Sandy’s. The book is so well executed that all the story lines flow together perfectly and there is never a moment of confusion. Each of these women has a story and it truly amazed me how, by the end of the story, it was quite plain to see that they were all connected. Molly of course works for the newspaper and is reporting on the story of the newborn baby and I liked her character. Barbara is another story. She’s a mom and completely obsessed with controlling her husband who is a cop and her kids. I never really warmed to her even though later in the story I could see where some of her anxieties came from. And then we have Sandy, a teenager, who comes from a very unstable home with a mom who parties more than she takes care of her daughter. Seemingly unrelated, the stories of these three women will all culminate in an ending that will shock and surprise the reader.
What I really love about novels like this is being able to try and figure out what is going on as I read. I was very busy trying to solve this mystery and I had even tossed around the idea of who the baby’s mother was and was right although I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t however predict the ending and it shocked me. For those who love psychological thrillers I can’t recommend Where They Found Her enough. I really enjoyed it and it’s worth it to mention once again that the audio production is fantastic!
Source: Digital review copy received from the publisher for an honest review. Audiobook from personal library. No compensation was received.
The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos is one of the She Reads Books of Spring and I was so excited to see it was one of our selections because I adore her books. She writes beautifully and her stories never fail to warm my heart and I know when I pick up one of her books I’m going to be fully immersed in another world that I will be sad to leave. I listened to the audio version which is narrated by Abby Craden and Arielle DeLisle and they do an amazing job of capturing the spirit of this novel. I’ve not listened to these two ladies before but I certainly will again as I found myself so captivated by their telling of this story.
As a young girl Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary always yearned for her father’s love and attention but didn’t get it. To top it off her father found himself a younger woman with whom he had a child. When she, her mother, and her brother Marcus move away the kids lose touch with him and really aren’t interested at all in forming any kind of a relationship with him anymore. Of course neither is he since he is much too busy with his daughter Willow, who Taisy and Marcus have dubbed ‘the precious one’.
Out of the blue Taisy’s father Wilson calls her and requests that she come for a visit. Upon arriving she finds that he wants her to write his memoir but really he has other motives that come to light as the novel progresses. Despite the relationship Taisy has had with her father she’s a girl who has only really loved three men in her life – her brother, her first love Ben, and her father and she finds that she can’t refuse him this. Needless to say she’s nervous about meeting her half sister Willow who has been shaped in her father’s mold to perfection and not only that but he’s always openly loved this girl. Something he didn’t have with Taisy. When she meets Willow it is as awkward as expected and Willow seems so angry with her. And jealous although Taisy can’t imagine why since it’s Willow who has always had their father’s undivided attention. As the days pass Taisy begins to learn more about this father she thought she knew and also, although slowly, a budding relationship seems to be forming with her sister.
This novel is told in the alternating voices of Taisy and Willow and it’s so well done. With Taisy we feel the strong woman that she is as she’s really had no choice but to be that way. And still we feel her vulnerability as she meets Ben again after many, many years. Then there is Willow who, having been so sheltered her whole life, is so very naive and unsuspecting of anything that could be evil and wrong. She’s young and experiencing a real school for the first time in her life and she’s completely out of her depth. Will she be able to survive the real world with so little preparation? Will she make friends? Will she find love or something more sinister?
I absolutely loved this book and even more so the audio and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read women’s fiction. The Precious One is a story of family, secrets, and love. It is a novel I won’t soon forget.
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