Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum Book Review

Hausfrau is a hauntingly beautiful book, set in Switzerland. Anna, an American ex-pat, has lived in Switzerland for 9 years. I was able to read this book to review through being sent an ebook via Netgalley.

Here’s the blurb:

Anna Benz lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. Anna, an American expat, has chosen this life far from home; but, despite its tranquility and order, inside she is falling apart.

Feeling adrift and unable to connect with her husband or his family; with the fellow expatriates who try to befriend her; or even, increasingly, her own thoughts and emotions, Anna attempts to assert her agency in the only way that makes sense to her: by engaging in short-lived but intense sexual affairs.

But adultery, too, has its own morality, and when Anna finds herself crossing a line, she will set off a terrible chain of events that ends in unspeakable tragedy. As her life crashes down around her, Anna must then discover where one must go when there is no going back . . .

I was drawn jnto Anna’s life from the beginning. I was intrigued by her life, and how she was feeling. I could imagine how lonely and how alien it must be to move to a country where you don’t speak the language.

The book describes Switzerland beautifully; and it just adds to the bleakness that Anna feels. Switzerland is seen a neutral, black and white, starch and firm place. The characters around Anna are quite animated and colourful in comparison to her own monochrome life. Bruno, Anna’s husband, is also an aloof character; you don’t really get to know him but he is a brooding shadow on the peripheral. The characters are all pieces in the bigger puzzle of Anna’s life. I was invested in all of them and even writing this review now, I’m wondering how these characters reacted at the end of the book.

The book is melancholic, it’s starts an ascent that it doesn’t really lift out of. Yes, it can be seen as depressing but I felt really connected to Anna and her story, and could identify with that feeling of loneliness of being a stranger in a new place – except for Anna that feeling had not gone away for 9 years.

Anna’s affairs are told graphically, they are explicit and almost grotesquely told, in comparison to the other parts of her life. You can see that she slowly loses control of her self, of her morality and what she feels is right or wrong. This is fuelled by her feelings regarding events that have taken place over the last 18 months, and the secrets which she has had to keep within herself. In her therapy sessions, Anna is told she is passively living her life, and needs to start taking an active part in her life. We see her struggle to identify and connect with the life around her. Despite this, she does make friends and tries to forge something for herself out of the aftermath of the last 18 months. It all seems promising until a tragic event occurs which puts Anna back at square one.

Anna is in a position that she can’t really get out of; a housewife with children, she doesn’t even own a bank account. She has been in Switzerland for 9 years yet is only starting to learn the language. She has almost allowed herself to become totally dependent on others in her life, and on one hand she wants to break free but on the other hand can’t find the motivation or will to do so. The book frustrates the reader with Anna’s passivity; yet also you can see how she is effectively in a prison – possibly of her own making. The choices she has, or is able to make are limited by her situation and through the book you can see Anna struggle with the concept of choice on many levels.

Overall, I loved this book. I am still thinking of this book 3 days after finishing it. The ending hit me in the guts. I am not sure if I expected it or not. The words whirl around in your head for a while afterwards. I thought it was just superbly written, and easily my favourite book of the year so far.

5 out 5 stars.

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum is published by Transworld and released on 26th March 2015

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Happy Birthday, Kiddo

I can’t say that from the moment I saw you I was filled with a rush of love and wonder; we were both doped up on pethidine and I felt like I was in a dream. Time stood still; things seemed to take forever. When I held you, however, all purple, and angry looking, I know I couldn’t believe that you were mine.

Later, when everyone had gone, and it was just us, I never ever panicked. I knew I was your mum and I knew that somehow, we would work it out. From that moment we were tied, in a journey both of us had to take. I remember when I had my first shower, whilst you lay in your crib next to the shower cubicle, and I, wobbly from drugs, scrubbed my bits as best as I could, all the whole not really looking at anything but you. When we arrived at the postnatal ward, yes I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but neither did you, and we taught each other along the way.

It was hard. So hard. I never knew how hard it would be,at the start. But not because you were hard; being a Mum is hard work. I want you to know that I treasure every feed we had together, every wake up, every cuddle. And I still do. Every moment I am with you, I am so grateful for. I try and see this in the moment, but at the start it’s quite hard.

I can’t believe that two years have gone by.

You have grown up into a little girl. You love the colour purple, peppa pig, postman pat and weird YouTube versions of nursery rhymes. You love books, especially The a Tiger Who Came to Tea. You have Baby, Other Baby, Big Upsy and Baby Upsy, who all love to be sang and stroked to sleep or taken for a walk in your little buggy. You love wearing your aunty lyds shoes, and pretending to go out to work. You love Old McDonald ( or EIEIO as you call it), the ABC song, and twinkle twinkle the best.

You eat so many things, and are only fussy when you don’t feel well which I think is acceptable. You appear to have your fathers love of pizza, but also love fruit. You love warm Ribena and a cup of tea. Oh, and chocolate cake. You sure do love chocolate cake.

You are so happy. You light up my life, and your Daddy’s too. Even when I am tired, or feeling down, you make me smile. It almost breaks my heart when you say Thank You Mummy when I make you a special bath or when you ask for a cuddle, or if I let you have a second mini roll. You are such a polite, caring, loveable girl. Everyone loves you, everyone smiles when you are around. I have learnt so much about myself because of you.

My life is so different now, and I could never have imagined what being a Mummy feels like. You are a little person now, and every day is such an experience. You are learning but I am too, all over again. If I could cuddle you all day, I would. You’re such a darling.

Happy Birthday my gorgeous girl, my cheeky chops, my Bubs. Xxx

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Disclaimer by Renee Knight Book Review

I was really fortunate to be sent a proof copy of this eagerly anticipated novel. The idea of this book reeled me in from the moment I saw the cover. This book is hotly tipped to do well and there has been a buzz about it all over the book blogging scene. So, what did I think?

Here’s the Blurb:

What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you?

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew…

This book starts out well. There is an eery chill from the moment you realise that Catherine is reading a book about her own life. The mystery slowly unfolds, from a few different viewpoints, and life for Catherine slowly unravels. The books pace is good, and my interest was held throughout, however I have to be honest and say I was slightly disappointed at the ‘secret’ that Catherine had been hiding for 20 years.

I liked the character of Stephen, in that I found him interesting to read, I found him a much more developed character than Catherine and I found the tension and the suspense really came from his part of the story. Catherine, in comparison, felt a bit ‘flat’ and I didn’t really get to know her as a person at all. Although it was her life, her secret that was being revealed, I couldn’t feel much sympathy for her, for most of the book.

The way the plot develops can be considered a little predictable. I felt there must be more to the whole story and the last part of the book reveals the plot twist. This is where I started to put the pieces together and I could feel for Catherine. Keeping her secret, just like it becoming known, more or less changed her life for the worse. I couldn’t really feel much for Robert, Cathetine’s husband either. Again, he is a minor character, and slightly one-dimensional. I also found it hard to empathise with Nick, Catherine’s son. However by the end of the book you can see why this is, and in a way it is clever of the author to do this.

The book was easy to read, I enjoyed reading the book. I guess I am slightly disappointed in that, I just expected more. The blurb, the whole idea of this book, really sparked my interest, and I did wonder where the novel could go when I started to read. However, it didn’t really break any new frontiers for me. I think it is a brilliant debut novel, and I can see why so many people were excited about it. It definitely feels like it could be a great TV Drama or a film, and in that way it reminds me of Gone Girl. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this on the big screen soon.

I’d give this book 3.5 stars.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight is published by Doubleday and released on 9th April 2015

I was sent a proof copy of this book in order to undertake a book review. All thoughts and opinions are my own

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Short Thoughts 10/2/15

Today I am going to try and be less angry, and eat less chocolate.

I need to think of chocolate as poison. Evil poison.

I mustn’t let silly little things get to me so much.

My other half put the washing on yesterday but left the washing liquid out, so now I have nothing to wear, unless I want to wear smelly wet clothes

I don’t rate Sam Smith all that much.

So tired and my brain is scrambled.

Chinese is one of your five-a-day, right?

This time two years ago, I was as big as a whale, overdue. Nothing’s changed that much.

Did I mention I was tired?

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Confessions of a Mother Inferior by Ericka Waller Book Review

Confessions of a Mother Inferior is a great read and written by my lovely pal, Ericka from Mum in The South blog. This is my honest opinion of the book:

Here’s the blurb:

Peta has three children under five, a job she hates and a tummy that looks like Jabba-The-Hut. Her (quirky) daughter has just started school and it’s not going very well. Her husband comes home less and less since employing his young blonde secretary and the only person she wants to talk about it all with is no longer around to hear her. She tries to keep up with a village full of perfect mothers and happy marriages but quietly her chaotic world is falling apart by the second. Can she save it and herself in time?

This book goes straight into the action, and much like real life, we have to catch up with the pace! Ericka’s writing is witty; a few times I laughed out loud and I think many mums can sympathise with Peta’s troubles and stresses concerning her daughters. There is sadness and poignancy too; I think for me this was especially heart pulling because I know that Ericka has had a lot of crap to deal with in her personal life and I felt that this was reflected a little in her writing. There were moments when I felt my eyes prick with tears, it’s sad, bittersweet and funny. The stories and anecdotes related to the school run, are really witty, and I really did just keep wanting to read more.

To start with the book can feel like a run down of someone’s inner thoughts which are intriguing but you’re not sure where it’s going to go. I must admit there were a few times I was a little confused about what was happening but it was easy to pick up the thread. Ericka weaves these thoughts into a story and soon you are wondering, guessing and trying to predict what will happen next. I really admire how someone can weave a plot and story together, it is something I don’t think I’ll ever manage to do myself.

The ending was a surprise in many ways, I wasn’t expecting the book to end this way. The ending is good, it’s positive and it leaves you wanting more. However a part of me wondered if the ending was too ‘perfect’ but that’s nothing to complain about. There were times when Peta irritated me a bit; I wanted her to take the bull by the horns and actually say something to her husband, Jimmy. I was willing her to see how other people viewed her and I also wanted her to take control of her life. The scene where she gets a makeover for her birthday made me laugh out loud, but also made me feel a bit sad too. I was glad when she got there in the end and started to do things for herself.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and not only because I know Ericka and enjoy her writing. The book felt like I was talking to a friend, it has a conversational style which is easy to read. It was relaxing to take a glimpse into Peta’s world. I would really love to read more from Ericka so I hope she gets writing again soon.

Confessions of a Mother Inferior is on sale via amazon and kindle, out now.

I paid for my own copy of Confessions of a Mother Inferior. All thoughts and opinions are my own

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Diet Bore #2

This week, I put on 0.6lbs.

Not a lot. Still, it’s a gain.

I have to sort my shit out. I can not go backwards.

This week has been mixed; stress at work on Monday meant that I ate a lot of chocolate. I vowed not to do that again and for the rest of this week I have been true to my word.

I am getting organised; dusted off the slow cooker and made some chilli yesterday. I also walked Bubs to nursery yesterday which was a 25 min walk which I’m pleased about.

I am going to start slimming world; I was hoping tonight but it may not be possible due to childcare. If not I will go next week.

I know the basic principles so am trying to eat sensibly and cut out all the processed rubbish.

So. A bit of a rubbish week. I am starting to get a grip, though. Being in limbo doesn’t help but I need to remind myself that I am the one putting all this stuff into my mouth and actually I am the only one who can make changes. Just need to keep focused and eat consciously.

Hopefully next week will be more positive and I can get my weight loss restarted

Nobody Thinks About After Babyhood….

Nobody asks for a 2 year old. Nobody gets pregnant and thinks ahead 2 years.

Before, when I was thinking about getting pregnant, and when I was pregnant, all I thought about was babies. Little, chubby little babies. You know, the ones that giggle and laugh through nappy adverts. That’s as far as I could think. Just having the baby was something I could barely contemplate. Giving birth was my biggest fear.

Well, I’ve been there, and I’ve done that.

Not many people talk to you about after babyhood. Everyone loves to coo and goes bananas about babies, feeding, weaning, poo, wee, blankets, toys, winding, baby smells, lullabies – you catch my drift. Having a baby is a total shock, like drowning before being rescued and then taking a massive intake of breath as you wake up to this reality which is nothing like you remember. You wear heaviness like a blanket. But babies are babies, and eventually you do sort of get the knack, even if they throw you a curve ball.

As they get older, people, and advice, start to drift away. Which is nice, actually. Life goes from new to…normal. Having this little person is no novelty. It’s real. Everyone gets to know each other. Lines are redrawn. Lives are adjusted. Babies turn to toddlers. And they start to be….them. A personality, a character. Thoughts independent, unknown and secret. They have a will, and they want their way.

Suddenly, you look down at this little person, with a scarily large head, who’s actually talking to you, and it hits you, you wonder how this has happened at all.

You have a 2 year old. A person. This was all your own fault.

And this is the unchartered territory. This is the bit that I should’ve worried a bit about. When a 2 year old kicks off, no one is there quoting anything at you, you can’t think back to that antenatal class which showed you the correct position to rugby tackle your toddler as they run off in Sainsbury’s Car Park.

This is really when parenthood begins. She’s looking up to me and she thinks I know everything. And I have to pretend that I do.

I never really thought about what it meant to be a parent. The baby bit was all I could even imagine. To be here now, it’s wonderful, exciting, terrifying. I think I’m doing alright. I know there are books and TV shows and yes a lot of great blogs out there I can refer to, but nothing really prepares you for having a little person. Your little person. You just want to make everything perfect for them, and I’m sure, to them, it is.

But I’m cacking myself.

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Short thoughts 5/2/14

Almost daily insights into my brain…..

I found out today what Beyoncé was warbling about when she was talking about drinking watermelon. Urgh.

Yesterday I realised I hadn’t got dressed, washed or brushed my teeth today. At about 6pm. Nice.

I feel like I meet so many people who I just KNOW I would be such good friends with, if only they didn’t live bloody miles away. Sometimes I feel lonely.

Marvellous creations popping candy is my nemesis. And probably the reason I’m still fat, tbh.

It hit me today that my little girl is 2 this month. Where the hell did 2 years go. No, seriously. Where did they go?

I haven’t sorted out a birthday party or anything. I’m pretty shit at that sort of thing. I sort of wish I could forget about it, really.

I want to do so many things I just need to actually do them, book tickets, make arrangements, live my life.

I keep writing 01/14 when I write the date, I can’t get used to it. I’m living in the past.

Diet Bore #1

Boring weekly diet ramblings

So, this is the first update of my healthy eating/diet of 2015. If you haven’t been read before, I started to lose weight in July 2014. It has been a slow slog, but I have lost over a stone, and I am trying my best to actually lose some more.

PLATEAU

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Since November, I have been stuck in groundhog day with my weight. I have more or less stayed the same weight since the 7th November! Christmas I put on about 4lbs (that spike you can see there) but I lost this the next week, but since then its been the same weight (give or take a half pound) every single week. I am stuck.

I refuse to give up, I refuse to say “sod it”, refuse to give in to my ‘binge’ attitude, I want to lose this weight.

It has been tough; December was a very tough month for us as a family, and so I can understand why things didn’t move. However, I genuinely started January in a great mood, and really ready to take on my weight loss. I have been eating well, and yes I have had a few blips but nothing too crazy.

I know I need to up my game; I need to move, start fitness. So yes the DVDs are coming out. I’ve been doing Tap Dancing as well, which has been really good and given me confidence to start other classes.

I need to drink more water – recently I’ve been living on Diet Coke which is not good for anyone. I know I need to drink more water.

I am wondering about my approach; I’ve been doing weight watchers online and it has worked up until now. I’m womdering if I need to switch to Slimming World, which, to be honest, has always been my preferred approach, but weight watchers was right for me when I started back in July. As I mull this over, I have started My Fitness Pal App as well, to count calories and just have a good old look at what I am actually eating. I’m pretty carb-heavy at the moment, so I know I need to either cut this down, or this just adds to my thoughts about switching to slimming world.

All in all, I feel happier than I did last year, and that’s what I need to keep in mind. I saw a time hop today which has further motivated me. This was me this time last year:

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And this is me now:

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I know I’m not perfect, or anywhere near where I should be, but I have made changes, I am making changes, and I am moving in the right direction, so I feel content with that. Now I just want to get back into the 13 stone bracket. This is 6lbs away from me. 6lbs which has been hanging over me since November. February is the month I kick this 6lbs’ ass.

If you have any advice for someone stuck in a groundhog-plateau-nightmare, then please let me know your tips.

My idea with this blog item id to update weekly; I need to get all this diet nonsense out of my head. I weigh-in on a Friday, so let’s see what happens this week.

I WILL NOT BE BEATEN!

Onwards and Downwards

The Girl In The Photograph by Kate Riordan Book Review

I was fortunate to be sent an electronic version of this book via Netgalley. The blurb intrigued me – I quite like a tale set in the past, with a past and present story – I like Kate Mosses books for example.

Here’s the blurb for you:

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth’s . . .

Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? Well I wasn’t disappointed.

I really enjoyed this book and the prologue really sets the scene, draws you in and makes you want to read on and find out more. The book is one you can easily get lost in, it’s written in a nice easy style which makes for a relaxing read.

The story is spooky, the haunting and ghostly presence is bubbling along the surface throughout – you are waiting for the moment you are spooked, but like real life, sometimes you wonder if it’s just your imagination. There is also a real feel of being haunted,not just by ghosts or the past, but also of being haunted by your own life and mistakes. I felt the characters were well written – Alice is a believable and likeable character, and we see her grow as the story progresses. Other characters in the book may have a slight stereotype to them, but that sort of makes sense, considering the book is based in the past, and it’s as if these characters haven’t really changed over the years and stuck in a time warp (I’m thinking Mrs Jelphs and Ruck)which also makes sense as it seems Fiercombe is stuck in the past altogether. You are reading, wondering, guessing what’s going to happen next – for both the past and present.

The title, the girl in the photograph, could refer to several references to photos of girls/women within the book. I felt each reference has some meaning, whether it be about the mother/daughter relationship or secrets of the past. There are a few themes I could really tease out of the book, and motherhood, postnatal depression, mother/daughter relationships, and societal pressure/condemnation are a few that spring to mind.

There were some quite chilling parts to this book, little parts of the story which sort of fit into place and make you feel a little cold as well. The ending leaves you feeling a little odd, well part of the ending, it’s uncomfortable in a way but the story concludes in a way I thought seemed appropriate. It all felt realistic and not too over the top. There were some questions not entirely answered – for example, why does the time not keep down in the valley? – and I felt there was an air of the valley being a little sinister or possessed in some way which was not really explained. I wondered whether there would be some supernatural edge to the story but this wasn’t expanded upon at all.

I love books like this, which has a slight mystery to it, and also tension and intrigue. I thought both elements of the story were well written and interwove really well. I loved the idea of Fiercombe Manor and the valley. The was the right mix of romanticism and mystery for me, it didn’t feel too much like a love story, although there is an element to that.

It was an easy read, one that I really enjoyed. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars. Well recommended.

Let me know what you thought of this book, if you’ve read it!

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