A late addition to the hot books at the London Book Fair is a debut novel called Hausfrau that Random House's David Ebershoff preempted world rights to on Friday, just before the fair got underway. The novel, which is set in Switzerland, is by poet Jill Alexander Essbaum and, as RH described it, explores "family and adultery."
The book, which RH has scheduled for May 2015, follows an American woman named Anna Benz in her late thirties. Living with her banker husband Bruno and their three children in an idyllic suburb of Zurich, Anna is, despite appearances, coming undone. Increasingly unable to connect with her husband, his family, or her expat friends, Anna, RH said, begins to find release through a series of “short-lived but intense sexual affairs.” Taking up with three different men, she is ultimately caught, setting off “a chain of events that ends in unspeakable tragedy.”
RH is now selling foreign rights to the book at the fair and, in an email to publishers about the novel, which PW obtained, Ebershoff touted the fact that the work is only the second debut novel he has acquired in recent years. Ebershoff, who edits David Mitchell and had two authors in 2013 that won Pulitzers (Adam Johnson and Fredrik Logevall), said Hausfrau was a book he "couldn’t put down."
Summarizing the novel, Ebershoff said: "The book is about marriage, sex, fidelity, morality, and most especially it’s about self. How we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves."
Ebershoff acquired the novel from Sergei Tsimberov and Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management.
Essbaum, who lives in Austin, Tex., is a former NEA fellow and her poetry was included in the 2010 edition of The Best American Poetry.