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The Widow

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Format: Mass Market Paperback

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Book Overview

The Widow is the story of two outcasts and their fatal encounter. One is the widow herself, Tati. Still young, she's never had an easy time of it, but she's not the kind to complain. Tati lives with... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Nasty, brutish, and short

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.

"[G]oing on to a narrow place

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 ali
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