It’s something of a crime that Gene Wilder has retired from acting. The legendary funnyman, known for some of the funniest films ever made, in recent years has become an author, turning out one book every two years or so.
His latest, “Something to Remember You By” (St. Martin’s Press), is his fourth work of fiction following the novels “My French Whore” and “The Woman Who Wouldn’t,” and the short story collection “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Like his previous books, it’s a charming, low-key romantic tale that is both funny and sad.
Set during World War II, the story concerns Tom Cole, a Jewish corporal injured during the Siege of Bastogne, Belgium on Christmas Day 1944. He recuperates in a hospital in London, and following his release, falls in love for the first time with an enigmatic Danish girl named Anna. Wilder is a hopeless romantic at heart, and the early scenes of Tom and Anna having beautiful dinners at a small café and then making love are thoughtfully and poignantly written.\
As it becomes clear that Anna is not the girl Tom thought, the story unfortunately wanes a bit as Tom becomes part of an elaborate plot to rescue several women from a concentration camp. The ending is also rather flat. Of Wilder’s three novels, this is probably the least successful, but it is a fine work nonetheless, with enough clever dialogue, quirky characters, and genuine romance to make it worth reading.
Wilder, who turns 80 this summer, has not appeared in a feature film in more than 20 years. I guess we should be glad that at least he is entertaining us with the written word, although it would be so nice to see him back on the big screen again.
Brian Scott Mednick is the author of the unauthorized biography Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad (BearManor Media).