book review: Good Things I Wish You by A. Manette Ansay

Good Things I Wish You: A Novel
The backstory: I've been meaning to read the novels of A. Manette Ansay since Vinegar Hill was named an Oprah book club pick years ago. When the chance to review her latest novel, Good Things I Wish You for a TLC Tour, I jumped at the chance to finally read one of her novels.

The basics: The heroine of this story is Jeanette, a recently divorced professor in Miami. Jeanette is writing a novel of Clara Schumann, and Good Things I Wish You is metafiction where Jeannette's life intersects with the novel she's writing.

My thoughts: I loved it. I instantly related to Jeanette and found myself rooting for her. I found the details about Clara Schumann's life fascinating. Metafiction may not be universally appealing, but I think Ansay used it beautifully here. For me, the overarching theme of the novel was significance. As a writer, the character of Jeannette was searching for the significance in Clara and her choices that other novelists and biographers may have missed. As a character, she wondered about the significant things in her own life.
"Mostly I think it's just a matter of paying attention. Everything is significant, but when you take note of something in a particular way, it winds up changing how you react, how you feel. Maybe just a little, but there it is. Over time, it starts to make a difference." (page 23, hardback)
Jeanette engages in discussions about significance, rationality and relationships:
"Who can say why we make the choices that come to be seen as significant, ordained?" (page 55) 
"Infatuation is the inciting incident. Maybe it goes somewhere, maybe it doesn't, but you can't have a story without it." (page 209)
The novel did not begin as metafiction, or if it did, it was subtle enough I didn't identify it immediately. As Jeanette begins to think and speak more frankly about the novel she is writing, the metafiction elements emerge:
"A really great novel gets at the truth the way nonfiction can't." (page 136)
Ansay is first and foremost a gifted wordsmith. I found myself amazed by her use of language to evoke pain, beauty, significance, coincidence and complicated ideas about humanity, history and sexism. I cannot wait to read more of A. Manette Ansay's novels.

The verdict: Good Things I Wish You may not wow all readers, but fans of literary fiction, those fascinated by the construction of fiction and those who adore historical fiction mixed with modern fiction will delight in this deep, beautiful, short novel.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: The paperback will be out July 1, 2010
Source: I was supposed to receive this book for review from the publisher for this TLC Book Tour, but it hasn't come yet, so I got the book from my local library.

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  1. This sounds really good. I remember reading Vinegar Hill a few years ago and really liking it so I might just have to check this one out too!

  2. I've never read any of Ansay's stuff, but I'm supremely tempted now! It sounds like a book I'd love since I'm captivated by metafiction. Great review!

  3. Great review! This book sounds fascinating and one I would enjoy very much!

  4. It sounds like this book was the perfect read for you – I’m so glad you were a part of the tour! And have a GREAT time in DC at ALA. I live near there but unfortunately I’m out of town now and won’t be able to attend. :(

  5. Glad to see you liked this one. I read Vinegar Hill and Sister ages ago and remember thinking she was a great writer.


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