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The Widow (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 1 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (1 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172612
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172612
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 261,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Georges Simenon is one of the most addictive and bestselling European authors of the 20th Century. His work consists of 391 titles, and he is best known as the creator of the fictional detective series consisting of 75 books featuring Inspector Maigret, translated into more than 50 languages and sold in more than 50 countries. There are over 800 million Simenon books sold worldwide and he is the most translated French speaking author of the 20th century and the second most translated author of all time in Italy after Shakespeare.

'A writer who, more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal' P.D. James

'My readings? I read Tout Simenon, and when I'm done, I start all over again' Claude Chabrol

Product Description

Review

Novels of eye-opening, spine-tingling control and intensity. To spend a Christmas pleasurably sunk in the deepest shades of noir, look no further. (Sunday Tribune)

About the Author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. In 1923 he moved to Paris, where under various pseudonyms he became a highly successful author of pulp fiction. In the early 1930s, Simenon emerged as a writer under his own name, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He also began to write his psychological novels, or romans durs. He wrote nearly two hundred books under his own name and became the worldwide best-selling.

Paul Theroux is a novelist and travel writer who divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii. Among his books are the novels The Mosquito Coast, Millroy the Magician, and My Secret History and the travel memoirs Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, and The Great Railway Bazaar.


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lonya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 May 2008
Format: Paperback
where there was no way to turn aside either to the right hand or to the left." Numbers 22:26

Georges Simenon was nothing if not prolific in both his literary and public life. Born in Belgium in 1903, Simenon turned out hundreds of novels. Simenon's obsession with writing caused him to break off an affair (he was prolific in this area of his life as well) with the celebrated Josephine Baker in Paris when he could only write twelve novels in the twelve month period in which they were involved. Although best known for his Inspector Maigret detective novels, Simenon also wrote over a hundred novels that he referred to as `romans durs' (literally "hard novels"). The publishing arm of `"NYRB Books is reissuing Simenon's hard novels. "The Widow" is their latest release (as of this writing). NYRB chooses its Simenons wisely. "The Widow"is a fine book.

I've sometimes thought of the arc of a person's life as one that consists of a series of narrowing options. On the day we are born the options available to us seem limitless. But the decisions made for us and the decisions we make every day serve to winnow out our options. It struck me, as I read "The Widow" that a typical Simenon story presents us with characters whose options seem so constrained to them that their actions, often desperate and violent, appear inevitable. "The Widow" is no exception. Tati is a middle-aged widow, living in a small village in a house owned by her aged father-in-law. She has clawed her way up to this not quite middle-class existence and will endure hard work and the infrequent sexual demands of the father-in-law to maintain her rightful place in this home. Jean, is a murderer, recently-released from a French prison. Unlike Tati, he comes from a solid, relatively wealthy local family.
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By James Russell Carew on 10 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
excellent, keep up the good work
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"[G]oing on to a narrow place 15 May 2008
By Lonya - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
where there was no way to turn aside either to the right hand or to the left." Numbers 22:26

Georges Simenon was nothing if not prolific in both his literary and public life. Born in Belgium in 1903, Simenon turned out hundreds of novels. Simenon's obsession with writing caused him to break off an affair (he was prolific in this area of his life as well) with the celebrated Josephine Baker in Paris when he could only write twelve novels in the twelve month period in which they were involved. Although best known for his Inspector Maigret detective novels, Simenon also wrote over a hundred novels that he referred to as `romans durs' (literally "hard novels"). NYRB Books is reissuing Simenon's hard novels. "The Widow" is their latest release. NYRB chooses its Simenons wisely. "The Widow" is a fine book.

I've sometimes thought of the arc of a person's life as one that consists of a series of narrowing options. On the day we are born the options available to us seem limitless. But the decisions made for us and the decisions we make every day serve to winnow out our options. It struck me, as I read "The Widow" that a typical Simenon story presents us with characters whose options seem so constrained to them that their actions, often desperate and violent, appear inevitable. "The Widow" is no exception. Tati is a middle-aged widow, living in a small village in a house owned by her aged father-in-law. She has clawed her way up to this not quite middle-class existence and will endure hard work and the infrequent sexual demands of the father-in-law to maintain her rightful place in this home. Jean, is a murderer, recently-released from a French prison. Unlike Tati, he comes from a solid, relatively wealthy local family. They meet on a bus and Tati decides without hesitation that Jean will provide her with help around the farm. Jean sees Tati as someone who can provide him with food, shelter, and a bedtime companion. This mutually beneficial relationship works out fine for a while, until Jean discovers the attractive young girl (Tati's niece) that lives on the adjacent property. From that point on the relationship between Jean and Tati takes a turn for the worse and continues to deteriorate. In a very real sense the options available to Jean and Tati are so dramatically narrowed in such a short span of time that each feels that his/her actions are inevitable, almost commanded by fate. The conclusion, while predictable, is powerful not because of the actions that bring about that conclusion but because of the overpowering sense of fate that drives the actions. Reading "The Widow" was like watching a storm at sea. You can see it a long ways off, you know it is coming, yet when it arrives it still manages to knock the wind out of you.

Paul Theroux's "Introduction" was interesting and on point. Theoroux points out the comparisons often made between Simenon and his contemporary, Albert Camus. Their writing shares much in terms of the sense of alienation and despair that infuses their characters. Theroux notes that Simenon never seemed to suffer the agony of the writer and believed that the ease with which words spilled out of him and on to paper were held against him by the literary establishment. He didn't suffer enough for his writing to be accorded the highest accolade. I tend to agree with that point. I don't believe, however, that Simenon's writing surpassed that of Camus. I do think that the comparison itself is valid and that each is good enough to be discussed in the company of the other.

"The Widow" is a fine example of the craft of Georges Simenon. Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Vocation of Unhappiness" 1 April 2008
By Keith A. Comess - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NYRB is reissuing many of the so-called, "romans durs" ("hard novels") written in haste but with great aplomb by the immensely prolific (400 plus novels) Georges Simenion. Obvious parallels exist between this novel and it's contemporary, "The Stranger", written by Albert Camus. In fact, Andre Gide found it the better of the two novels, which (to the chagrin of Simenon) despite that endorsement, failed to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for him.

This brief novel is beautifully written. For example, "...the summer was spoiled. Every two days, every three days at most, a storm rumbled in the distance without even bringing a cooling shower. It could be felt far off in the air, somewhere in the direction of Morvan. The atmosphere was heavy. The rays of the sun, suddenly, seemed painted in oils." It also has the air of objective detachment that permeates, "The Stranger". As in that book, the protagonist of this one, Jean Passerat-Monnoyeur, commits a crime (in the closing pages, he murders "the widow", Mrs Couderc), but has little apparent motive; he, in essence, just "felt like it", in a phrase. The murder could not even pass as an impulse. There are implications of "predestination" throughout the book which become grating, as if Simenon was attempting to interject psychoanalytic elements into the otherwise spare story.

Unlike Camus' novel, however, the denouement seems clumsy and unexplained. Simeonon drops portentious hints of forthcoming violence, such as Jean repeatedly mentally reviewing elements of the French criminal code on murder; he's been there before, having killed a man over gaming loses. The second crime, the murder of Madame Couderc, could be construed as having been vaguely provoked by her jealousy over his dalliance with a neighbor girl. Because it is abrupt and therefore hard to fathom and given that it is not the culmination of a series of events, but rather a tenuous extension from them (beforehand, the jealous nagging was received with equanimity), the reader is left with the impression that Simenon was ready to move to another novel and simply chose to end this one with a jarring crime.

In summary, this is a good novel, certainly on par with his others in NYRB. Unlike Gide, I did not consider it first rank.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Nasty, brutish, and short 28 Nov. 2008
By Erik Huber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel, published the same year as The Stranger and eerily similar, is more psychologically astute and more worthy of reading twice. Simenon creates a pastoral idyll with subtle hints of deep dischord, then builds effects until you know something terrible is going to happen, and sustains and builds this suspense until at last there is murder... on the next to last page.
Well written 20 Oct. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent story. Well written. Makes one appreciate our small blessings.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Can a world-famous writer who published over 400 novels be underrated? 2 April 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Quest for the perfect mystery/thriller... Score card:

10/10: An exemplary novel that covers the same thematic territory as mystery/thrillers but is probably not even considered a genre work (start with Crime and Punishment and work your way down...).
9/10: A worthy novel which may not rate a 10, but is still an excellent, re-readable novel. A 9 may also not be considered within the genre. Think Brighton Rock or Dog Soldiers.
8/10: Re-readable, perhaps a classic of the genre or something at the top of the genre. Think Chandler, Hammett, much of Elmore Leonard. (Many would rate the classics of the genre higher than an 8).
7/10: Re-readable if you're in the mood. Solid genre work (think lesser Chandler, Hammett and Leonard).
6/10: A very good, well-crafted and enjoyable genre work, but essentially not re-readable (think Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Lee Childs).
5/10: Decent genre work, but certainly not re-readable, and possibly something you may not even finish if something better comes along.
4/10: A flawed piece of genre work with possibly some good parts. Could probably serve as a bad example in the war against cliche. You may finish it, but you'll probably be skimming as you lose faith in the author. And, you probably won't try another book by the same author.
3/10: Seriously flawed. You definitely won't read it straight through, even if your flight just got grounded in Des Moines.
2/10: A complete dog. It's apparent from the get go that the author does not write well or is completely without writerly integrity (which is unrelated to personal integrity - perhaps the author has a starving child at home).
1/10: The utter pits. "Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit." -Joe Gillis character in Sunset Boulevard

Amazon stars: divide score by 2 and then round up, to soften this tough scale. In some cases (especially for a 6), add an extra star to put the review on the same basis as other reviews.

*** *** ***

Simenon underrated? Well, shouldn't writers be judged by their best work? Read Simenon's best novels and you may not be so sure that you've placed him correctly. If Simenon had published only a select 40 novels (and no Maigret's), his reputation would be much higher. In this harrowing tale, which is often compared with The Stranger, published the same year, the rendering of a provincial French town and its denizens is close to flawless.

Is the ending justified and inevitable? Do we really know Jean and what drives him? Yes and no, although I would lean toward yes. The character of Jean is revealed by indirection, carefully revealed memories which provide glimpses into the chaos at his center. Outwardly easygoing and tractable, there is a deep strain of irrationality and impulsiveness within him. Rational types may accuse Simenon as playing writerly games, but I think the portrait of Jean is rather good. You can rarely fault Simenon for what he puts into his stories - only for what he leaves out or the shortcuts he takes. The other central portrait, Tati, in her provincial surroundings is brilliant. In her own way, Tati is as obsessive as Jean. In combination with Jean and catalyzed by Tati's bete noire, the girl, an explosive situation is created. If Simenon cut any corners, it's in the plot device that puts Tati out of commission, accelerating the shift in her personality that pushes the story to its violent conclusion. No spoiler there - the dust jacket and Paul Theroux's introduction pretty much give the game away.

Although everyone notes the comparison with The Stranger, I thought the most astute statement Theroux made in the introduction was "...at first glance he seems easily classified and on second thought (after you've read 50 or 60 of his books) unclassifiable."

9/10, Amazon 5 stars
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