The Wager

The Wager

by Donna Jo Napoli
3.8 6

Hardcover(First Edition)

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The Wager 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
As I read this book, I thought it had the makings of a fairytale and then in the notes in the reader at the back of the book, I found that it is an old Sicilian fairytale that the author put her spin on. I will tell this tale often as it is with so many fairytales, there is a deeper meaning within its grasp if you truly want to look for it. I picked up The Wager at the library because the cover surprised me. I loved the wickedness of the red and black contrasting colors, the pictures portrayed on the front and the font showcasing the title. Don, the main baron in the book wasn’t an evil man; he had just been raised inside his castle, admired by many women. When a tidal wave swept the village away that surrounded him, Don helped the villagers as others purged out his wealth from his castle on the hilltop. Alone, neither servants nor family, no money to fall back on, Don was just like all the other villagers and he like everyone else had to find a way to survive. Don Diovanni, a man once admired was left on the streets trying to rebuild his life. No sleep for me as I watched Don try to uphold is clean image living among the others on the street. They laughed at him, how he could be the famous Don, the man with all the money living among them, eating day-old bread and scrounging among the trees and bushes for berries. This novel was remarkable and I knew my evening was inside this book when Don met a distinguished gentleman and what he offered Don, would push him to his limits. This was no gentleman, for what he offered him was a gamble, a risk, a bet that only the Devil himself thought he could win at and he had set it before Don, hoping Don would crumble at his feet. Don could not take his sad pathetic life anymore so he took The Wager from the Devil, the deal was made. No washing, no shaving, no changing of his clothes, no change to his beauty for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days. Don was willing to exchange his soul to acquire his wealth back but as the days, months and years progressed, Don’s conditions based on this wager was deteriorating. I could not tear myself away from this novel, what a terrific story. I was so engrossed with Don’s fight to win this battle with the Devil and his transformation from someone so powerful to someone who walks with the people. As Don walks among the villages, now looking sometimes worse than the beggars, my image of him was disgusting, not bathing or washing his clothes for days or months, he had to look and smell awful. His sores, the lice, his breath and hair, his fear of losing but yet he continued on looking forward to the day he would get his wealth back and what exactly he would do on that day. This is definitely a keeper!
SiennaLC More than 1 year ago
I read this out loud to my husband and he loved it as did I. It is a wonderful story.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli (2010) This book was shortlisted for the 2010 Cybils which is why (as a round 2 judge) I read it. I liked The Wager enough to finish it but it wasn't great. I didn't hate it but I can't put my finger on what made it a book I didn't hate if that makes sense. I wasn't familiar with the story of Don Giovanni (an Italian folk tale) before reading this so it was interesting to find a new fairytale but it felt very clinical and I never really connected with any of the characters or events. The ending felt very abrupt and compressed and yet it felt like the book took too long to get to the wager which was the main event of the book. I liked the Beauty and the Beast undertones in the story but it ultimately just didn't grab me. Some parts of the book also just really nagged me. It's 1169 in Messina, Italy. Why does Don Giovanni keep wondering who he was kidding? Was anyone at the time speaking that way? The meat of the story is about Don Giovanni making a wager with the devil that comes down to his not bathing for three years, three months, and three days to win an infinite amount of money (or lose his soul). He gets worms and lice. Sores sprout all over his body. But what about his nails? The more I think about it the more it drives me nuts that no mention was made in the wager itself as to whether or not Don Giovani could cut his nails. And if it wasn't, no mention was made of how long his nails got over the three plus years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a great combination between a Faustian deal with a fairy tale mixed in. There is an author's note provided at the end of the book which explains that the story was based on a Sicilian fairy tale and even goes as far as to summarize the entire fairy tale and what happens to the characters in it. I'd have to say I prefer Napoli's version of the tale. It's much more happier and it has a great feel good ending. The concept of the story was interesting, although it sounded pretty gross that Don Giovanni couldn't bathe for such a long time. Naturally as the story progresses, he gets tempted to wash and bathe but stays clear of the temptations. What I liked about the book, was suddenly Giovanni finds himself among the "commoners" and not with his peers (his peers in fact, ignore him or treat him like dirt). It's an eye opener to him as he had the ego the size of a house in the beginning of the book. This provides great character development where he goes from being a selfish arrogant egotistical noble, to a simple man who develops friendships and acquaintances with villagers, peasants, farmers, and street urchins. That being said, I really did enjoy reading about Giovanni and his character development. There are graphic depictions of how dirty Giovanni is. I mean really really dirty. Like open sores and pustules dirty. It's gross, but you could say it's very well written if it gets a reaction from the reader. However the plot is clear and evenly paced and the descriptions of various scenes are excellent and can be pictured easily. I'd also have to say the little twist in the end, where the mysterious artist appears and their identity was revealed, was a nice little surprise and I thought it added a very nice touch to the ending. I thought it was a great retelling of an old fairy tale and will be looking for more of Napoli's works. It's a wonderful plot, Don Giovanni turns out to be likable and it's great 'happily ever after' story. Give this one a try, it's unique and different and a very enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago