The Wager: A (rapid fire) review

The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli (2010)

The Wager by Donna Jo NapoliThis 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.