Ditching the Dream vs. Hausfrau
****************A COMPARISON AND SOME SPOILERS******************
I thought it would be fun to compare two books with housewives as the main characters with ultimately two very different outcomes. One book is the unhappy housewife’s dream, leaving a neglectful husband and being independent. The other is the housewife remaining in an unloving marriage. Both women felt neglected, unwanted, and unloved. But there were some glaring differences in the choices that they made.
In Ditching the Dream, Elizabeth Fairchild has her own money, moves from California to NYC, and was able to procure a job and an apartment of her own. In Hausfrau, Anna Benz has no money, lives as an American in Switzerland, is unable to work, and doesn’t speak the language nor does she know how to drive. Elizabeth had many more options than Anna. So many housewives find themselves older, without funds, and with very limited options, like Anna. Some of them make poor decisions that make things worse, also like Anna. Other housewives find a way to move forward, like Elizabeth.
I found myself rooting for both Elizabeth and Anna, even though Elizabeth left her husband and had an affair with two men, and Anna remained in her marriage, but had affairs with two men as well. Some people may not get past that they were cheaters and adulterers. I found myself looking at the context of the marriages, not just the affairs. Both marriages were stagnant and no longer loving. Elizabeth and Anna acted in less than honorable way, but were understandable to me. Elizabeth found fun and hot sex in her affairs; Anna did not.
Elizabeth was 42, and Anna was 38. They were close in age, but I though that Elizabeth was more mature emotionally than Anna. Anna was rejected by her mother, when she was just a child. She had never been loved and was drifting through life. Elizabeth had a stable childhood and a good friend. I think that if Elizabeth had met Anna, she would have tried to help her. She would have been able to empathize and understand Anna’s situation because it was fairly close to hers.
The difference between the cliffhanger ending and the tragic ending was how the husbands treated their wives. Greg and Bruno made different choices. Again Elizabeth was offered a choice, while Anna was treated poorly. Both housewives made mistakes, but I didn’t hate either one. I think society sets women up to be the helpless housewife, and when a woman rebels, she is often met with little support and feels a lot of guilt.
Though Ditching the Dream was a more enjoyable read because of the humor and erotic romance scenes, I found myself absorbed in both stories. Both ended in ways I had hoped they would not. While Ditching the Dream had a cliffhanger that is resolved in Not in My Wildest Dreams, I was very happy at the end of the sequel. I cried at the end of Hausfrau, in frustration, in anger, and in sadness. See my reviews for each book below. Both are worth reading.
After 23 years of marriage, Elizabeth decides to ditch the dream and see if she can make it on her own in NYC. Then she meets sexy Kevin, 10 years younger and a very romantic schoolteacher, and Jack AKA “Jackass Jack”, from her past and 10 years older, a former male model with his own very successful business and a penchant for bdsm. From her affairs to her husband, Greg, giving her permission to ‘sow her wild oats’, she has to figure out what she wants and needs.
She is independent for the first time in her life at 42 years old. It’s her midlife crisis turned midlife exploration. There was more to the story than just the smoking hot, sexy scenes as she comes to terms with who she is after being defined as a wife and mother for so long.
The text messages from Greg were so typical, but I did feel for his discomfort. He seemed more concerned at being inconvenienced by his wife not being around, than pining for her. Greg didn’t deserve to be cheated on, but I had no desire for Elizabeth to stay in that marriage once she had discovered how wonderful sex could be and how terrific being loved and desired is.
I enjoyed her dilemma… hmmm which hottie should she choose?! The contrast between Kevin and Jack was not just that one was younger and the latter older, but Kevin was more romantic and allowed Lizzie to take the lead sexually while Jack was Dominant and took control with Beth sexually. Both men treated her with respect, Elizabeth was able to discover just how hot sex can really be. It was her mid-life crisis/opportunity. This may be some housewives’ dreams.
I liked Elizabeth and her impulsive dash for independence. She had some people in her life who wanted her to remain with her marriage and life as it was, but she was daring enough to try.
The ending threw me. It was a “Wait, what?” ending. The resolution to the cliffhanger is in Not in My Wildest Dreams. I enjoyed that novel as well.
Hausfrau (housewife in German) was not a book that I’d normally read. I saw it as a NetGalley option to review and thought that I’d try it. I knew where it was headed as it was supposed to be a modern Anna Karenina, and I had skimmed that book. I didn’t identify with Anna Karenina and fast forwarded to the end, so I had an idea of where this book was headed prior to reading it.
This American housewife, Anna, is married to a Swiss man and is living in Switzerland. She is isolated from her relatives in America and is having a problem making friends. She doesn’t know how to drive, relies on her husband for money, and her mother-in-law for helping her with her kids. She doesn’t even have her resident identification; it’s all her husband’s doing and in his keeping. She doesn’t know what he does or how much money they have. It sounds like a housewife from the 1950s and sadly still exists today.
She joins a German language class, has an affair or two, meets a Canadian lady who becomes a friend, and meets with a psychoanalyst. I didn’t know if I would identify with her, but I did. It would also be easy to judge her and dislike her as self-absorbed. It was the fact that she had nothing of her own and was in a foreign country that didn’t feel like home that made her sympathetic to me. She was so lost and alone in a marriage that was not loving. There are many housewives that find themselves in similar situations.
I did want to shake her at times and wanted her to believe in herself and to take control of her life. Her psychoanalyst began to annoy me as she was not helping Anna to become independent; she seemed to like to interpret Anna’s dreams and tell her things. I didn’t feel that the Doktor was empowering Anna, and then in a later part of the story, I felt that the Doktor had let her down completely.
When a tragic accident occurs and then her friend, Mary, brings up an unspoken topic repeatedly, Anna’s world comes tumbling down. I have to admit that I cried. I was touched more deeply than I had expected. I think what touched me was that it was preventable.
This story was NOT a sexy read for me. The affairs were routine sex, and Anna was trying to feel comforted as she reveals later in the story. Her passiveness was pervasive. She was so disconnected from herself and her life, and that seems to be true of many people.
I knew how it would end, and I felt that the author kept hinting at it, too. So, I was hoping for some twist, some unexpected happening, maybe even an epilogue of the aftermath to take it to somewhere different. That was the letdown for me.
Overall, it was an interesting and revealing read of how a life can get so far off course, isolated, unhappy, and lost; the things done to fill the emptiness, and the consequences of the choices made. There was not a happily ever after nor a romance, and that made it a bit of a depressing and hard read for me.
The one quote that sums up this book for me: “Most men [and women] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” David Henry Thoreau
Have you read either one or both? Or would the spoiler that both housewives cheated keep you from reading them?