Good Things I Wish You Paperback – 1 Apr 2010
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"Reminiscent of "The French Lieutenant's Woman, Good Things I Wish You" employs a rich and daring metafictional spin on one of the great romances in history to investigate passion and love--and what doesn't change between women and men. Manette Ansay takes great risks to deliver great rewards."--Stewart O'Nan
A novel that has been compared to THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN and POSSESSION, this is an ambitious literary work by New York Times bestselling author Manette AnsaySee all Product description
Top customer reviews
Jeanette Hochmann is a former star piano student, now working as an academic at a university in Miami and writing prolifically (whether academic books or novels on the whole we never find out). She has long been fascinated by the relationship between Brahms and Clara Schumann - why didn't they marry? Were they lovers or just friends? Jeanette is divorced from a difficult husband with depressive issues, and is bringing up their daughter. In an attempt to find a new partner, she joins a dating agency and meets Hart, a German entrepreneur, intelligent, handsome and very secretive. Jeanette tells him about her novel, and he offers to translate some of the Clara Schumann correspondence and other relevant material into German. As Jeanette becomes more engrossed in Clara and Brahms's story, she also finds herself increasingly drawn to Hart. But is it love? And what is Hart hiding from her?
As someone who's a big fan of the music of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms (and of Clara Schumann) I really enjoyed reading the historical bits of this novel, the bits where Jeanette attempts to imagine what it was really like to be Clara, Johannes Brahms or Robert Schumann, and how their situation and the attachment between Clara and Brahms may have developed. I loved the descriptions of the young Brahms's fierce devotion to Clara and his kindness to her children, and Clara's complex feelings about her husband and Brahms. And I thought Ansay's explanation for why Clara and Brahms didn't marry was in the end fairly convincing (though I thought that the idea that Brahms 'had to renounce Clara to be the composer he was meant to be' was a bit romantic). And the book did make me want to go and listen to a lot more Schumann and Brahms. The problem was that the historical story was so vivid and moving that the present-day story felt a bit colourless by the side of it. We never learnt quite enough about Jeanette (even whether she taught literature or music), about why she gave up the prospect of a career as a pianist, whether she regretted it, and about her relationship with her depressive husband Cal. Hart came across as a rather wooden character given to cliches ('Men and women can never be friends', 'I may never love anyone as I loved my wife') and we never learnt enough about his 'dark nights of the soul' either. As Ansay got more involved in the Brahms/Schumann/Clara triangle, the modern story kind of fizzled out, rather depressingly. I think the book was also too short for the complex emotions that Ansay was trying to explore, particularly in the modern part of the story. However, I'd still give the novel four stars for all the fascinating and well-researched material on the Schumanns and Brahms, and for an idea which I think might have led to a really successful 'dual time' novel if Ansay had been more interested in her present-day story.