Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Woman Who Wouldn't by Gene Wilder

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.    


  1. Sounds little a really good book! Ive been looking for a story like this because I really want to get back into the short-story type mood haha!

    1. Normally I find short stories too short, but this one was just right. Its a really sweet story. I hope you enjoy it, if you do decide to read it.

  2. Is that Gene Wilder the actor? I didn't realize he was an author.

    1. Yes that's him. I didn't know he was an author either until I came across this book. He has several other books out, I've learned.

  3. I think I'll have to check this story out. I'm not usually one for short stories, either, but this sounds very intriguing. Thanks for writing this great review so I can learn about it. :)

  4. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it.
    Thank you for your kind comment. :)