Title: The Woman Who Wouldn't Author: Gene Wilder Published: March 2008 Published By: St. Martin's Press Format Read: Audio Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Short Story Date Read: June 29 2015 Rating: 4/5
1903: A concert violinist name Jeremy Webb suffers an
unfortunate nervous breakdown during a performance with the Cleveland
Orchestra. As a result he is sent to an exclusive health resort deep in
Germany’s Black Forest to recuperate and try to understand the reason for his
current mental state. Among the “guests” of this resort style institution was a
consumptive Anton Checkhov. However it wasn’t the famed Russian author who
would have the most influence on Jeremy Webb, that title would go to a young
Belgian woman by the name of Clara Mulpas. After being diagnosed with stomach
cancer, Clara’s husband left her to suffer alone. The Woman Who Wouldn’t tells
the love story of such an unlikely pair in an unlikely place.
I listened to this short story in audio format and was pleased
to find that it was narrated by the author himself. Although I really enjoyed the
story itself, I couldn’t imagine it being told by anyone other than Gene
Wilder. Other reviewers have mentioned comparisons to this story and his real
life experience with wife Gilda Radner’s death from ovarian cancer in 1989.
Unfortunately reality has a very different ending than fiction.
Jeremy was an interesting character, who I would describe as
erratic due in part to his temporary insanity. Clara was an innocent woman with
a streak of stubbornness that made for some creative wooing on Jeremy’s part.
His love for her developed quite quickly, however it didn’t come across as an
insta-love that is so popular in other romance novels. However my favourite character
was the doctor that treated them. He came across as such an endearing person
and I enjoyed hearing Wilder’s accent for this character.
The beautiful pre-war Germany setting was one of my
favourite parts of The Woman Who Wouldn’t. Beginning in the description of
Jeremy’s arrival through the Black Forest to the health resort in Badenweiler,
continuing on to the hikes which allowed for the patients to experience the benefits
of the fresh air. Wilder’s descriptions really paint a beautiful picture and I
found it refreshing to read about this country during a time of peace. The term
health resort is very fitting for this location as the patients had a freedom
and compassionate care that many with mental inflictions of that time weren’t
fortunate enough to receive
I would recommend this short story to anyone who is looking
for a light love story. Although I do hope to purchase it in book format,
listening to the audio version was very enjoyable. I look forward to reading
more of Gene Wilder’s books in the future.