Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Report - The Woman Who Wouldn't by Gene Wilder

The Woman Who Wouldn't, by Gene Wilder, is a strange little book.  And I do mean little, at just 167 gift book-sized pages.  Given its author, its title, and the tagline "from the author of My French Whore" winking from the cover, I expected a sophisticated if tongue-in-cheek romp about some tart who wouldn't (insert sex act of choice here) for the might-as-well-be-Gene Wilder-himself hero.  Instead I discovered a delicate trinket box of a tale guarding the twin jewels of two damaged people who happen upon each other in a German sanitarium in 1903.  (For the record, 1903 was too distant and improbable a time for me to imagine, so I took the liberty of fast-forwarding the setting to the still-quaint but more relatable 1953.)  Although it is true that heroine Clara initially refuses concert violinist Jeremy's overtures, the title seems to mean "the woman who wouldn't give up on herself" more than "the woman who played hard to get."  Clara, it turns out, has aggressive stomach cancer at the tender age of twenty-five, a condition that seems to have sharpened her already to-the-point way of speaking and her carpe diem outlook.  That having been said, it isn't long before she takes Jeremy into her confidence.  Anything but sordid, their unusual courtship is marked by a conclusion that is most unexpected, the details of which I've counseled my spoiler-happy self to withhold. 

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