Showing posts with label infidelity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label infidelity. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And then my heart burst. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum


Title: Hausfrau
Author: Jill Alexander Essbaum
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Source: review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Z├╝rich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back. 

My Review:

I read Hausfrau and now I AM BROKEN INSIDE.

Honestly, I was a bit unsure of this book during the first half.  Hausfrau is getting a ton of buzz right now, and as I jumped into the text, I had to spend some time unraveling Anna's inner turmoil.  At first, I found myself getting rather annoyed with her--what business does she have, cheating on her husband at every turn?  Ignoring her kids in favor of another tryst?  I even was (dare I say it?) bored for a chapter or two as things played out.  (And, I should note (for those who'd like the content warning), they do play out quite graphically.  It got a little 50 Shades of Grey up in there for a while.)  But as the details came together, I began to realize that Anna isn't a stereotypical desperate housewife.  Anna is really and truly depressed.  And this book captures her downward spiral in the most heartbreakingly stunning way.

I think that's the best thing to know going into this book: there is no catch here.  There's no mystery behind Anna's background that's going to explain her actions to you (I kept waiting for some big reveal about her past that didn't happen).  This book is a character study in depression, plain and simple.  And depression doesn't usually have one root cause that can be so quickly explained.

Even though there is no big revelation about Anna along the way, there is a rather significant plot change that occurs in the second half, and this is where my heart basically imploded and I could.not.stop.reading until the very end.  Oh, the sadness, my friends.  I felt so deeply for Anna by the end of this novel.  I don't get real attached to characters in novels most of the time, but I felt emotionally entrenched in her story for sure.

And the ending.  This book could make my favorites list for the year simply because of how well Essbaum wrote the last page.  I won't spoil it for you but just...amazingly poignant.

Do you like character-driven novels?  Do you like to feel all the feels (and I don't even like that phrase), especially the depressingly sad ones?  Then Hausfrau will be the most well-written novel to make you cry in 2015.  HANDS DOWN.

What's the last book that really and truly tugged at your heartstrings?  Made you cry?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Believe the Hype! The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


My Review:

It's only partway through January, and already I feel like this book has more hype than any novel can handle in 2015.  ERRRR-BODY is reading The Girl on the Train right now, people!  I had a credit on my Amazon account and couldn't help jumping on the bandwagon for this one, because yes--it gets compared to Gone Girl pretty much non-stop.  Check the reviews on Goodreads--almost every single reviewer mentions it.

I don't like to write a review that constantly compares the book in question to a previous read...but I'm going to do it anyway here, because my reading experience was absolutely influenced by the fact that so many people made the Gone Girl comparison.

There are, admittedly, a lot of similarities.  If you liked the unreliable narrators in Gone Girl, you get a bonus in Girl on the Train, because there's three of them.  And they are all kinds of batsh*t crazy.  One is a massively insecure, unemployed, raging alcoholic.  Another is a woman with a mysterious past who has recently gone missing.  And then you have the housewife whose constant paranoia leaves every one of her chapters thick with anxiety.  Yup, if you want a story where you're never sure who's telling the truth, then winner winner chicken dinner right here.  Plus, none of the narrators are quite what they seem--your interpretation of these three very different women is guaranteed to change by the time you reach the end.

The other big similarity?  The suspense.  Once you get going with this novel, you better clear your schedule.  The narrators weave quite a spectacular tale, and once you get wrapped up in it, you'll whip through chapters wanting to know what's next.  I FLEW through this book, and I don't fly through a lot of books these days.  The story is dark, sinister, and twisted in many ways, and will leave you with the same sort of unsettled feeling that you probably got from that Gillian Flynn novel.**

I will say that one significant difference for me was in the ending.  At the end of Gone Girl, I felt like the ending was perfection--not just the actual events involved, but the tone as well.  (I know not everyone agrees with me on this, NOTED.)  The Girl on the Train was different.  I saw the conclusion coming a lot sooner than I wanted to--I had figured out the "whodunit" quite a while before the book got around to revealing it, which was a little disappointing.  And I found the culprit's frank demeanor about the whole situation to be rather odd.

That said, I wouldn't say the ending ruined the novel for me as a whole.  The suspense in this book really can't be beat, and that alone makes the reading experience worth it.  Plus, despite being a little predictable for me, I will say the ending keeps with the dark nature of the rest of the book, so it felt fitting even if it wasn't especially surprising.

Final verdict: despite feeling so-so about the ending, I think the hype around this book is well-deserved.  If you want a truly engrossing read, get yourself on that 138-person wait list for The Girl on the Train at your local library, like ASAP.

Who's read this highly-hyped novel already?  What did you think (no spoilers please!)?  If you haven't read it, do you think you'll be giving in to the hype and trying it anytime soon?

**Without giving spoilers, I would like to mention that the death of a young child plays a role in this book.  It is not gory, but it was difficult for me to read when I came upon it unexpectedly, and I felt it would be helpful to include this trigger warning for other readers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow


Title: Indiscretion
Author: Charles Dubow
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Source: e-ARC received from publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

We’ve all been around a couple who can engulf the attention of an entire room merely by occupying it. Harry and Madeleine Winslow are that set; the natural ease between them is palpable and their chemistry is almost tangible. He is a recent National Book Award winner with a promising career ahead of him, and she is blessed with family money, but radiates beauty, elegance, and humility. Whether they are abroad in Italy after he receives the Rome Prize, in their ambrosial East Hampton home, or in gritty Manhattan, they are always surrounded by close friends and those who wish to penetrate their inner circle. During a summer spent at the beach, they meet 26 year-old Claire and, as the summer blazes on, she is slowly inducted into their world. Claire can’t help but fall in love with Harry and Maddy and at the end of the summer, it is no longer enough to just be one of their hangers-on. Told through the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend Walter, Indiscretion is a juicy, page turning novel with writing that is sophisticated and lyrical. Deeply textured, full of light and darkness, and overwhelmingly sensual, this book will be the sexiest, most intimate story you read all year.

My Review:

"We make so many right decisions in life, but it is the wrong ones that can never be forgiven."

Ooooh, what an intriguing journey I went on with this novel.  I'm not going to give you much plot detail beyond the description, because I think it's just enough.  The basic premise of the novel is not surprising (ummm...it involves infidelity?), but even so, I was never quite sure where it was going to go next.  Its subject is seemingly simple (a marriage, a friendship, and...an indiscretion), but I never felt like I knew the true nature of the book's four main characters--and that air of mystery left the plot in a state of constant change.

You see, Dubow leaves enough of each character in shadow so that you never get a good grip on them, and thus you constantly question their desires and motives.  Given that this is a book focusing primarily on relationships--their origins, their flaws, what makes them important to us--you don't want everything neatly explained anyway.  Half the fun of this novel is figuring out what makes each protagonist tick, and how they will react in the face of despair.

Beyond the somber and shifty nature of the book as a whole, I was also enamored with the way it was narrated.  When the story begins, you can't quite get a read on Walter (lifelong friend of the primary couple, Harry and Maddy Winslow).  His background is vague, and his feelings for Harry and Maddy (especially Maddy) leave you wondering what his true place is in the novel.  At first, I thought he was the chosen narrator because of his distance from Harry and Maddy's relationship--but that later proves not to be true, as Walter takes an increasingly large role in their lives.  I love stories that do interesting things with perspective, and Indiscretion certainly manages that.  Walter's role in the book gradually changes as the pages turn, and as a result, your perception of the entire debacle must change as well.

The ending deserves its own paragraph, because the last 20% of this book is phenomenal.  I thought I had an idea of what might happen, but then something totally different occurred.  I got comfortable with that reality, settled in for a nicely-wrapped ending, and then...GAME CHANGE.  Well played, Mr. Dubow.
And then after that lovely twist, there was YET ANOTHER ONE.  After a fairly evenly-paced novel, I was surprised to see so many change-ups in the ending, but I loved it nonetheless.

Were there any downsides to Indiscretion?  I will say that when I started to realize that the book was truly filled with regular, not-crazy people (and not at least one crazy-stalker, like I had originally thought), I was a little disappointed and for part of the book after that, I felt like things got a little slow.  However, after I got over that realization and reworked my idea of the book (as I had to do so many times anyway), I moved on and ended up loving the direction it took. 

Also, I don't know if this is a downside, but some of the sex scenes are quite explicit.  If you're averse to that (where my reading prudes at??), they can be a bit shocking, but they only occur in a relatively small part of the novel and do have a descriptive purpose in the plot.

Overall, I found this book to be rather fantastic.  Human relationships are so often ambiguous, and Dubow nails that both in his choice of narrator and in the ever-shifting direction of the character's lives.  You probably won't get a good read on Harry, Maddy, Claire, and Walter until the last page--and even then, you'll still be left with a few "whys" to ponder.  This is a thought-provoking book that gets to the heart of the fluidity of our relationships--and how one wrong decision can have implications that last a lifetime.

Check out some other reviews of Indiscretion:
Nomad Reader
I Read A Book Once...
Confessions of a Book Addict
 
Imagination Designs