The Wager. Donna Jo Napoli. 2010. April 2010. Henry Holt. 272 pages.
Messina, 1169Donna Jo Napoli's latest book is based on the fairy tale Don Giovanni de la Fortuna. And I really enjoyed this one. I was unfamiliar with the original story, but I was soon swept up into this one!
Don Giovanni looked out the castle window over the strait that separated the island of Sicily from the mainland. He fingered the fine silk of his shirtsleeves and smiled. "The sea is bluer because it's mine."
"Don't be absurd."
He turned. A maidservant carried a tray into the room. The scent of honey and sheep's milk ricotta promised such sweet satisfaction that his smile lingered, despite her words. He tilted his head. "What did you say?"
"You heard me." Her attention was on the heavy tray.
Reckless woman. Girl, actually, judging by the skin on the back of her olive hands. Her arms were long under those thin brown sleeves. Shapely in fact. A fine girl. He spoke coolly: "I'm giving you a chance to retract."
She set the tray on the table. "No one owns the sea."
Heat rose up Don Giovanni's neck. He looked out the window again. If he stood just so, with his body slightly turned the window well was thick enough that it blocked his view of the city of Messina; all he saw was his own property. "I own everything in sight. The sea is mine."
"You really are ridiculous." (1-2)
Don Giovanni has it all--or so he thinks--when the novel opens. His extravagant lifestyle could just get him in trouble, however. Because he is living beyond his means. And when disaster strikes--a natural disaster--he loses it all. Forced into a life of poverty, forced into a life of working (yes, working) for his keep. If he wants to live, if he wants to eat, he has to realize that no job is too demeaning, too dangerous.
One day, Don Giovanni meets a stranger who offers him something incredible--endless riches. A magical purse that will provide him with ALL the money he could ever, ever want or need. But there's a catch. Because this stranger is the devil himself. And if Don Giovanni loses this wager, he'll lose his very soul.
What is the wager? What is the catch? Well, this oh-so-handsome man cannot wash himself (or his clothes), comb his hair, shave, or change his clothes. For three years. Three months. Three days. Just imagine that if you will. Can Don Giovanni do it? Is being that wealthy worth it?
I liked this one. As I said, I was unfamiliar with the original tale so I didn't know what was coming, what to expect. I really enjoyed this one. I liked the details, the imagery. I thought it worked really well as a novelization.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews