The Woman Who Wouldn’t

Gene Wilder, Author
Gene Wilder, Author . St. Martin’s $19.95 (167p) ISBN 978-0-312-37578-2
Reviewed on: 11/26/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008

Wilder’s short second novel, following the similarly semifarcical My French Whore , takes a poignant and whimsically romantic poke at turn-of-the-last-century Europe’s privileged gentry. When British concert violinist Jeremy Spencer Webb snaps, pouring water down a tuba and pounding the Steinway during a performance, he is sent to a health resort in the German Black Forest to recover. There, under the care of the orchestra director’s brother, Dr. Karl Gross, Jeremy meets his idol, the consumptive Anton Chekhov, and an elusive “cute Belgie” named Clara Mulpas. His treatment, a regimen of rigorous walks, long baths, fine dining and the local white wine, is put to the test when he is asked to play with the string quartet that entertains the guests during dinner. The episode ends badly, but helps deepen his friendship with Chekhov. Jeremy also grows closer to Clara: struggling to restrain his normally flirtatious impulse so as not to scare her off, he gradually wins her over, with unexpected results. Wilder lovingly depicts the miraculous joy and inevitable loss that liberate true emotion in Jeremy and his music. (Mar.)

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