In this title short story, “The Woman with the Bouquet,” Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt blends his trademark elements of fairy tale romance, pathos, and fatedness. It radiates mystery and romanticism but also a ghostly bit of menace, and it cuts to a marrow of sorrow. It appeals to our curiosity about the “obsessing” people in this world who will not be moved from their own missions, and simultaneously it reminds us that time spent waiting for something is time not spent doing something else more “constructive.” Loyalty and love would seem to be the motivators of the woman, but perhaps she just is retiring from the world by standing there every day?
TTHE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE WORLD is a collection of eight modern fairy tales. In each of the novellas, a sense of the fantastic intertwines with the mundane, sometimes enchantingly, sometimes crudely but still beguilingly.
The title story, for instance, transports the reader into the midst of a women’s gulag during Soviet rule where the inmates suspiciously eye the newcomer, Olga. She might, after all, be an informer. But the talk of the day is about her hair which is either “horrible” or “magnificent” depending upon the prisoner opining.