The Woman with the Bouquet

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The Woman with the Bouquet

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schmitt's mostly pleasant collection of five stories (after The Most Beautiful Book in the World) observes uncommon relationships, from the intense to the fleeting, beginning with "The Dreamer from Ostend," in which the narrator, recovering from a breakup, lodges with the aging, wheelchair-bound Emma Van A. At first, the narrator believes Emma is trapped in her book-filled home and has lived a largely vicarious life--until Emma reveals an amazing, if possibly untrue, secret. In "Getting Better," Stéphanie, a young Parisian nurse, is captivated by a middle-aged patient after he pays her an unexpected compliment. The narrator of the title story notices an elderly woman who comes to the Zurich train station every day clutching a bouquet of flowers, as if waiting for someone. After speculating with his co-workers over her situation, Eric realizes they are imposing their own life stories onto the woman. Each of these stories hinges on human connection and does the required work of illuminating their protagonist's lives, though the uniformity in aesthetic--quiet, deliberate, mannered--sometimes feels uninspired. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Prolific and celebrated French dramatist and fiction writer Schmitt (Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran) has had his work translated into more than 40 languages. He has explored an impressively diverse range of themes during his career, which has included the publication of several books that focus on major religions. This excellent new collection of short fiction centers on the grand but problematic nature of love. "The Dreamer from Ostend," for example, is a beautifully realized story about a passionate but tragically short-lived love affair, which reads like a fairy tale (forbidden love, a prince, a beautiful young woman surreptitiously schooled in the art of love by a madam at her father's brothel in the Congo). "Getting Better" is a poignant story about an awakening—a blind hospital patient convinces a meek and unassuming nurse that she is beautiful. Schmitt engages his subject here with considerable psychological depth and sophistication. VERDICT Enthusiastically recommended for readers of literary fiction.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Kirkus Reviews

Illuminating stories about the everyday—self-image, problematic relationships, the need for love—marred only by Schmitt's unfortunate tendency to use heavy-handed irony in the stories' conclusions.

In the first story, "The Dreamer from Ostend," we meet an author, also the narrator, recently disappointed in love. Spending time in Ostend because he's attracted by the exoticism of the name, he meets Emma Van A, the elderly aunt of his landlady, who has spent all of her life among her thousands of books and whose direct experience of life seems limited. Her reading has been confined exclusively to the classics, her greatest literary love being Homer. To the narrator she begins to spin a story of her past, one more than a little tinged with an eroticism that seems out of keeping with her staid present. After exploring the thin line between fact and fiction, Schmitt doesn't leave his story tantalizingly ambiguous but instead clunkily confirms the existence of Emma's lover. In "Perfect Crime"—almost Hitchcockian in its plot—Gabrielle de Sarlat becomes convinced that her husband of many years can't possibly be as good as he seems. A "triggering" event brought about by a usually astute neighbor has persuaded Gabrielle that her husband is nothing more than a hypocrite hiding his numerous lovers, so she murders him. Although a witness to the crime exists, she's exculpated...but eventually realizes her mistake. "Getting Better" introduces us to Stéphanie, a nurse taking care of a handsome man who's been terribly injured in an accident. Stéphanie has never found herself attractive, but despite his blindness he convinces her she's beautiful based on her voice and her delicate scent. His flattery leads to a transformation.

While all of Schmitt's stories are well worth reading, when an ironic conclusion becomes predictable (à la O. Henry), it subverts its own desire to surprise.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933372815
  • Publisher: Europa
  • Publication date: 8/31/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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