cover image Good Things I Wish You

Good Things I Wish You

A. Manette Ansay, . . Harper, $25.99 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-06-123996-0

In Ansay's slight new novel, Jeanette Hochmann is a recently divorced mother writing a novel based on the 40-year relationship between 19th-century German pianist Clara Schumann and her husband's protégé, composer Johannes Brahms. Through a dating service, Jeanette meets a German entrepreneur, Hart, and while they appear to have little in common, Hart's 16-year-old daughter—like Jeannette in her youth—is a budding musical prodigy, who lives in Leipzig near the former residence of the subject of Jeanette's book. Although Jeanette and Hart attempt to have a platonic friendship, it quickly (and predictably) evolves into more, and their lives begin to overlap with the characters of Jeanette's novel. The story is most compelling when examining the fascinating bond between the 19th-century musicians. Less compelling are the pages devoted to navigating the more mundane contemporary world of dating and Starbucks coffee runs. While the photographs, sketches and letters interspersed throughout the book provide interest and help to elevate the material, in the end, Ansay's novel feels piddling and ordinary. We know exactly where Hart and Jeanette's relationship is going, and as a result, it's a strain to get there. (July)