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Good Things I Wish You: A Novel
Good Things I Wish You: A Novel
A. Manette Ansay
Harper, 2009
272 pp., $25.99

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You'll know A. Manette Ansay from her other books, the Oprah pick Vinegar Hill, the National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Midnight Champagne, and Blue Water. In her new book, Good Things I Wish You, freshly divorced Jeanette Hochmann struggles to finalize a book about Clara Schumann's chummy relationship with Johannes Brahms, during the period in which she was married to the renowned composer and pianist Robert Schumann. When Jeanette meets Hart through a discreet dating service, he offers his services as a German translator for texts she cannot read. The tension in the novel is created by a line he speaks, quite flippantly, while asking the waiter for the check on one of their dates. "Men and women can never be friends."

Jeanette, still reeling from a soured relationship, prickles at this, but it's the one thing that allows her to question the chastity she's slapped on both of her subjects, Clara and Brahms. Were they, in reality, more than friends? Why had their families destroyed certain diaries and letters? Through Jeanette's own blossoming relationship with Hart, she learns the meaning of respect, of devotion, and of love, and this translates Clara Schumann's heart for her.

A special delight is that Ansay has filled her novel with photographs, diary entries, and sketches that mirror the storyline. This gives the book a homey, come-here-let-me-tell-you-a-story kind of feeling, which I enjoyed.

Whether we like it or not, the task of marriage is a day-by-day sort of endeavor, a landscape I'm reticent to paint in black and white. Along with the shadows comes light. Along with the despair comes joy. Along with the drabness comes mind-boggling color. Everything else is gravy.

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