Book Review :: Good Things I Wish You

A. Manette Ansay’s prose is the comforting arms of a familiar lover.

In the afternoon I read Good Things I Wish You, I was immediately home and nodding agreement with her beautiful language. It wasn’t the roller-coaster ride of discovering something new, but a gentle cadence that is completely fulfilling, leaving you looking forward to your next interlude.

This latest novel tells parallel tales – that of the narrator relationship with a new beau – and the suspicious romance of Clara Schumann’s and her husband’s student, Johannes Brahms.  The narrator – Jeanette Hochmann – is recently divorced and researching the relationship of Schumann and Brahms as the topic of a novel she’s writing. The narrative is peppered with excerpts from letters from Clara & Johannes as well as Clara’s husband, Robert, and their children. In addition, making the contemporary story feel more like memoir than novel, are photos from 2006, Jeanette’s trip to Germany.

This was a selection for my book club, and we had a great discussion concerning just how much of a relationship Clara and Johannes had. The novel leaves much for interpretation, much like the historic letters. My personal opinion (because I’m always going to believe that there is more there than what meets the eye) is that indeed there was a relationship. Whatever existed ended after a brief vacation the two took together after Robert died.

My personal thoughts – and I think I was the only one who felt this way – is that she rebuffed him on this trip, not giving him the legitimate relationship he wanted. I think that Clara never wanted a family life. She longed for the stage and the spotlight that a life on tour provided. When she was finally free of this obligation (a term I use very loosely, because Clara pretty much continued to do what she wanted despite her husband and children) the last thing she wanted was to be tied down again.

A quick read and a good one for discussion, makes this a logical book club choice.

Ansay provides yet another satisfying story. So much so, I’ve already ordered two more by her (Sister and Midnight Champagne – I’ve read Vinegar Hill and Blue Water) and have vowed that this year I’ll read everything she has to offer.

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