There are unavoidable comparisons to be made here with Peter Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (p. 98) as just before, rather than right after his mother's death, Simenon attempts to reconstitute the life of the woman he had never known. Or loved. ""We never loved each other in your lifetime. Both of us pretended."" In remnants, as poverty-frayed as her life, he converts a few facts into the figure of the woman he can now view as ""resigned"" but sustaining an ""inward pride,"" insecure but persevering. She was the thirteenth child of a poor family whose father died when she was five; she married a taciturn man who also died young and without means; she took in roomers; she remarried, perhaps only to secure a pension. At the end Simenon sees her as indurated by more than circumstance with her ""ferocious need to be good, in the eyes of others"" and most of all her own. There are of course many unasked questions and unresolved guilts set down here in commemorative form. But in contrast to the Handke--despite the strangely similar set of givens--there's far less emotional duress and terminal impact.