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MY FRENCH WHORE by Gene Wilder

MY FRENCH WHORE

A Love Story

By Gene Wilder

Pub Date: March 6th, 2007
ISBN: 0-312-36057-6
Publisher: St. Martin's

Actor and screenwriter Wilder follows up his well-received memoir (Kiss Me Like a Stranger, 2005) with this slender but nimble fiction about an American soldier captured by the Germans in the waning days of World War I.

Chicago train conductor Paul Peachy enlists in 1918 mainly to escape his unhappy marriage. In France, company commander Captain Harrington learns that Paul speaks German and assigns him to interrogate a prisoner who turns out to be a famous spy. The lonely Harry Stroller, who allowed himself to be captured because he realizes Germany will soon lose the war, is more than glad to chat with Paul about his life and escapades in espionage. Soon after, Paul finds himself in the thick of battle. Taken prisoner after running from the fight, our mild-mannered, self-effacing hero commandingly announces to his captors that he is Harry Stroller. He demands to be taken to headquarters, where he quickly charms another lonely German, Colonel Steinig. To amuse his new friend, Steinig arranges an evening with Annie, the young prostitute of the title. At first, Paul rebuffs her professional sexual advances because she wears too much makeup for his taste. At his prodding, she soon removes the makeup, literally and figuratively. After Annie tells Paul the sad story of her misuse at the hands of a cruel German stepfather, they share a brief, idyllic romance filled with good food and tender lovemaking. Then who should turn up as a prisoner of war but Captain Harrington? Paul devises a daring escape for his commanding officer but stays behind, unwilling to leave Annie even though he knows it is only a matter of time before the Germans discover his ruse. Soon enough, an old friend of Stroller’s shows up at one of Steinig’s parties and unmasks Paul, with tragic results.

Modest but satisfying, if unabashedly sentimental.