UNCLE CHARLES HAS LOCKED HIMSELF IN by Georges Simenon

UNCLE CHARLES HAS LOCKED HIMSELF IN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From 1939: Simenon in a sharp, unsentimental, yet ruefully droll mood as he examines the nasty underside of middle-class family life in the suburbs of Rouen. Why has Charles Dupeux, middle-aged bookkeeper at his rich brother-in-law's grocery, come home from work and quietly locked himself in an attic storeroom? His fat, cheerful, slovenly wife Laurence, who spends most of her time visiting seedy, somewhat vulgar relatives, is a bit worried but mostly just annoyed. Two of their three daughters (a fourth has run off with a married man) are otherwise preoccupied: Mauricette, an ambitious secretary, goes nightclubbing with her married boss, and high-strung Lulu, 16, is losing her virginity to the neighborhood Casanova (who'll treat her badly). Only dowdy Camille, a corset saleswoman and shorthand student, shows real concern for unassuming Papa. But one family member is concerned, to the point of panic, with Charles' odd behavior: his boss, brother-in-law Henri, who seems to have dark secrets that Charles may have stumbled on. Indeed, it eventually emerges that, in his low-key way, Charles--silently disappointed in marriage, quietly devastated by the fates of his daughters--has been bolstering himself through the years with the small comforts of embezzlement, the large pleasures of power, gamesmanship. This close-up character study is a bit too sketchy to be fully persuasive; some of the incidents (like Lulu's tragic fate) are slightly melodramatic. But the overall portrait of daily life among the Rouen bourgeoisie--small feuds, niggling class distinctions, nonstop eating and talking in the kitchen--is leanly vivid, bleakly amusing, and effectively depressing.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1987
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich