The constant interruptions of the therapist to tell us her interpretation of the deeper meaning of the story symbolically, in profound therapist talk and analogy, got really unbearable really quickly. Only black person in the book and she has to compare his skin to chocolate. After that I felt all the interruptions and talk of Switzerland, a bit clunky. The erotic extravaganza became stale and bland. Werde mich nach dem Melken in ein Röckli hüllen! You can see how charming and loving he is.
When she wants to end them, she finds it's difficult. Cut lily buds in half crosswise, then tear each half lengthwise into 2 or 3 shreds. That's not good, it's grating on the reader. It was not considered in the therapy sessions, perhaps it would have complicated the plot :- She couldn't drive a car; don't really like cooking, and had no other passions to pull her into a healthier frame of mind.
I was okay with the questionable choices and even the feeling that she was not improving her situation, just complicating it. A well-written novel about a depressive, narcissistic American expat in Zurich which I can't say I really enjoyed. That's how American expat Anna Benz insulated and isolated herself from her new life in Switzerland. Yet she cannot stop her secrets from impinging on her family, with disastrous consequences. Her feelings of apathy and disconnection could also have been caused by post natal depression.
I've read several reviews comparing this to classics Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina comparisons I can't quite comprehend and a few daring to mention similarity to Fifty Shades of Grey slightly more believable comparison. So begins, with a cadent, staccato backbeat of negativity, a never-ending list of poor life choices that at first is limned with pretty prose via inferences derived from her parts of speech studies in language class and her therapy sessions but becomes wearisome and grating by book's end. They felt dropped into the story to show how much she hated life here, to explain more of why she is so unhappy. The Gospel is not about demanding that things be done, but doing them. No one talks like this.
Both she and we can see the inevitable reckoning, and the form it takes is tragic. I do think Anna the character was well portrayed as lifeless, like a living body functioning without a soul. It depends on whether it's about what I think it's about. Essbaum shoehorned in facts about the country at random points. Lay it out on a cutting board and chop through it.
But it also seemed a bit more like a male's writing. That fusion occurs only at a specific heat. Yet these affairs are devoid of the passion and emotional investment that one might expect from a novel that focuses on affairs — sometimes jarringly so. Yes, a perfect audience for this plot.
I would recommend anyone read this who is interested in sophisticated storytelling and nuanced female characters. She is motivationlessly like a woman from the early part of the last century while living in the 21st century, she is motivationlessly sad, motivationlessly willing to follow Bruno and accept a substandard relationship with no control. I mean, maybe not grand, but interesting, at least. Deliberately so, it would seem, for Anna withholds most of her truth even from her Jungian psychotherapist, Doktor Messerli. That an ordinary flame's hottest point cannot always be seen.
The plot of her life had already been published. It was despair alone she owned outright. That pain is greedy and doesn't give ground. They are hard for us to fathom and most readers will find Anna very unlikable. That fire is beautifully cruel.