Imagine this: You’re thirty-eight years old. You’re married. Mother to three small children. And you live an expatriate’s life just outside Zürich, a city that’s consistently ranked among the world’s most livable. Your husband— himself Swiss by birth— is a banker. Your days are comfortable, well-appointed. You don’t need to work outside the home. No, your work is inside the home. For you are a Hausfrau. A housewife. You cook. You clean. You mind the children. You traipse to the supermarket. You sort the laundry. Everyone’s safe, fed, loved. You are a good wife. Mostly.
But you have few friends because the Swiss are tenacious in their reservedness and they don’t reach out to you, and so when loneliness beats down the door of your heart (which it seems to be doing with far more frequency and vigor of late) you find yourself wandering the aisles of the supermarket just to pass the time or riding the train from terminus to terminus, desperate for an answer to your despairs.
Your husband suggests psychoanalysis. Your analyst suggests German classes—because, let’s face it: you’ve been here how many years (nine!) and you still don’t know the language?
The affairs, though. You came up with that one all your own. Take one lover, take another— perhaps you’ve done this before? Soon you become an expert at making mistakes. And every day pulses you towards new, inevitable dooms.
Your name is Anna Benz and you are the protagonist in my novel, Hausfrau. It’s an erotic book, it’s a neurotic book. It’s a book that spins on the axis of language and syntax and tries (and I hope, succeeds) to replicate a particular brand of loneliness most common to expatriates or women in complicated marriages. A desolation that feels the way a single, distant alphorn sounds.
This is my first novel and I’m humbled and giddy and grateful (pick one! pick all!) to be on Mantle’s 2015 list. And I’m thankful for booksellers, too!
With sincere regards,
Jill Alexander Essbaum