Showing posts with label jill alexander essbaum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jill alexander essbaum. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

IT'S FAVORITES TIME!!!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. Day Four by Sarah Lotz
If you haven't read Lotz's The Three yet, do that first, and then do yourself a favor and read this book.  The Three was on my 2014 favorites list, and the sequel did not disappoint!

2. The Shore by Sara Taylor
Potentially the most unique novel I read this year.  I can't wait to see what else Taylor has in store.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the only 5-star reviews I gave all year.  This story is heart-wrenching and beautifully told.

4. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is still one of my favorite nonfiction writers.  He handles this delicate subject with the same objectivity and fastidiousness that is the trademark of his other works.

5. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A truly awesome reading experience from cover to cover, made even more enjoyable because I did not originally expect so much from it!  I love it when a novel makes me bend my typical genre preferences.

6. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This novel made me feel all the feelings.  Not the most uplifting choice on my list, but certainly one that continues to stay with me.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Few nonfiction writers can bring their subjects to life the way Larson can.  These real-life events read with the suspense of a fiction novel, while still capturing all of the historical detail needed to make this an enlightening read.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
You had me at "post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is one of those books for which I did not write an especially amazing review, but due to the fact that I continue to mull it over and over, and hit my friends with random factoids from it all the time, it has still earned a spot on the favorites list for this year.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Ughhhh, I feel so bandwagon-y and lemming-like putting this on here.  I mean, it's on every list EVER, right?  But I can't deny it was one of the top 10 books I read this year.  Fact.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2015?

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?
 
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