GOOD THINGS I WISH YOU by A. Manette Ansay


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From novelist and former concert pianist Ansay (Blue Water, 2006, etc.), metafiction about a novelist writing about pianist Clara Schumann.

Clara is a fascinating subject. The greatest pianist of her day—think Britney Spears and Meryl Streep combined—she defies her father to marry composer Robert Schumann and largely gives up her career to be a mother and wife, devoted to Robert even when he goes mad. Along comes young Johannes Brahms. Clearly in love with Clara, he cares devotedly for Robert and the kids. Meanwhile Clara begins jumping at every chance to leave her family to go on tour. While Robert is in a sanitarium, Clara and Johannes travel together, apparently platonically, and exchange passionate letters, but once Robert conveniently dies, so does their passion. What remains is a mysterious, if abiding friendship. Unfortunately, fictional character Jeanette Hochmann, who is writing a novelized account of the musician’s life, is less riveting. A divorced college professor and successful novelist devoted to her small daughter, Jeanette yearns for a man in her life as well as more free time to finish her book. Through a dating service she meets Hart, a divorced German doctor/entrepreneur. Coincidentally, they have planned trips to Leipzig at the same time, Jeanette to research Clara, Hart to visit his adolescent daughter, a musical prodigy he rarely gets to see since a nasty custody battle with his ex-wife. Jeanette writes her affair with Hart into her novel without telling him as their irritatingly ambiguous relationship evolves. Even when he proposes marriage to Jeanette, Hart cannot pretend to have the passionate kind of love he felt for his ex. That’s what Jeanette claims she wants, but although she identifies with Clara’s conflicting creative and emotional needs, what she really wants remains murky.

An ambitious attempt to combine intellectual concepts with the emotional energy of fiction, but in this case thought overpowers feeling.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-123996-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2009


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