Dark domesticity: the making of the Hausfrau book cover

03 March 2015

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum tells the story of American expat Anna Benz. She lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. 

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.

From reading Hausfrau, the feeling I got was a sense of feeling trapped and isolated in a domestic setting so from the outset this was something I wanted to convey in the cover design.

Hausfrau cover idea
Design idea 1

I thought about perceived traditional female domestic roles and came up with the idea of a wife doing needlework to keep herself busy.

Hausfrau idea 2
Design idea 2

I liked the idea of having a ring with the subtle diamond-shaped house to represent Hausfrau in a literal way and having that and the title as the only bits of colour. Enclosing it with thorny, grey wilting flowers helped convey the sense of something darker coming through.

Hausfrau mock up
A mock up of the cover from on which the stitching would be based

I really wanted the cover to look as though it was actually stitched on and so I contacted studio Maricor/Maricar as I had seen some of their beautiful stitched artwork before and thought they would be perfect for the job. I sent them some (VERY) rough sketches which they then transformed into the final stitched cover. 

Hausfrau stitching in progress
Stitching of the cover in progress

The whole thing was stitched to size and appears on the cover of the book exactly as it is in real life!

The final cover of Hasufrau
The finished book

>>Find out more about Hausfrau over on panmacmillan.com