In Hausfrau, Madame Bovary meets 50 Shades and Anna Karenina

T saidLeo Tolstoy: All happy stories are alike; each book is enjoyable in its own way. If not that story Hausfrau. Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut novel has been compared to a range of other books, from classics (Madame Bovary a Anna Karenina) to today’s best sellers (Fifty Shades of Grey a Walking girl) – and he doesn’t mind the comparison.

Essbaum’s protagonist Anna Benz – whose story, like Anna Karenina, begins on a train – is a housewife outside Zurich who has lived there with her husband and children for almost a decade without learning the language. As he descends into depression, promiscuity becomes a way to escape from his miserable life.

We caught up with Essbaum, an award-winning poet and native Texan, ahead of his debut on March 17. He teaches graduate psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

TIME: Your book has been compared by critics and your publisher, Random House, to 50 Shades of Grey, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina until Walking girl. What do you do with that?

Essbaum: I think it is very beautiful! So let’s unpack this. One of my friends said, “Aren’t you hurt doing it?” [compared to 50 Shades]?” I said, “That book sold well, why should I be offended?” Honestly, I think I’m the woman people compare me to, although I’m a little less confident. of the Anna Karenina In contrast, you see, there is a big nod to Tolstoy with the name [Anna]and I mean with Walking girl, mine is not a thriller, but the word that keeps coming up is “domestic noir.” I think it’s the coolest thing, I’ve never heard of it before, and I love it about the guts of the interior of the house.

But Madame Bovary The key here is that this book is inspired by Madame Bovary, it’s true. I must emphasize: This is not a recitation, a worship, a nod. I was very impressed with Flaubert’s use of language and his constant search for that exact word, which is the best practice in his work – there are no strings attached in his writing. Because I come from a music … language is important to me, so when people compare Flaubert, I know they are comparing style and setting, but I hope that they compare the way they are told and the language as well.

Anna is challenged by grammar and homonyms. What draws you as a writer to these homonyms?

My first love is jokes and puns. I’ve been making a comic book for years now, and mostly puns. Puns are based on misunderstandings, mostly misunderstandings. Homonyms and homophones and small nuances of meaning – What is the difference between shame and guilt? Regret and regret? – and false cognates, meaning that these things do not have the same meaning and because there is this big difference between them, they are both. Language is one of the few ways [Anna] present himself with truth. But he can’t do anything, it’s in his own head, and that’s what he really says. He can’t tell the truth, he can only work through these weird grammar rules. It’s sad for me.

People often say that it’s hard to write good sex scenes, and this story is no exception. How did you approach that?

Well, the smart aleck answer ran through my head and I let that go. “A lot of research!” No, I’m joking.

I heard early praise and criticism that the female characters were real, but others said, “Well, maybe they’re not.” I want to protect them because I don’t think they are worthless. It was the only time he was truly naked and vulnerable. It’s like writing a book about a drug addict but not showing him taking drugs. It would be foolish not to disclose the nature of his investment. If I just said, “Then he went to her house and they slept,” that would be a problem.

That said, I think I know what happens when people read it. I didn’t realize this until I heard it on an audiobook – at first I was a little shocked. I don’t know how accurate these features are. I think we as readers feel embarrassed, because it’s like we’ve walked into a room we weren’t meant to be in, because it’s so powerful and so intimate. .

One way in which a female character can go left, very quickly, is that everything can be told in euphemisms rather than directly. I’m pretty poetic in most of my explanations, but I’ve really tried to avoid euphemisms. We use euphemism when we don’t want to tell the truth, because it embarrasses us or scares us, or we don’t like it, or we might be lying. If I want to embellish that – you know, “Then they do the work, and finally,” that’s a lie, because they didn’t “do the work,” they did this important work. and the body that destroyed it. and afterwards he left his opinion in this manner which I thought I would present in this story. It was really hard to write.

I’m surprised people think it’s free, because I think it’s a huge part of who he is.

Well, not all people. Some said they saw him as a different character, and that a very fair criticism. He was not very pleasant. But like I said, I’m not sure it’s free, but I think it’s a shame.

One of the topics I almost didn’t bring up until the end was religion. It’s very simple in the book, but it keeps coming back.

I’m so glad you asked that, you were the first to bring that up. I posted it a couple of times to people and they scratched their heads a little bit. It may be a hole in grammar and fire, but I think this is a very religious book. Especially since the last conversation he had with the priest. He seeks comfort in many ways: he seeks comfort in words — he cannot find it. She seeks comfort in the arms of men – she can’t find it. His marriage isn’t working, and he’s asking these big, spiritual questions that everyone asks at one time or another.

Do you have plans for a new book in the works?

I’m writing something right now, maybe it’s about basketball, my passion. I love NBA basketball. It’s a good reason to go to more games.

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