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Pub Date: April 18th, 1986
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Simenon at his most starkly sociological: a small, mild cautionary tale from 1946 (Les Noces de Poitiers) about a weak young man making a pitiful attempt to escape from the dreary confines of life in the provinces. GÉrard Auvinet is only 20, with no particular prospects, when he finds himself compelled to marry pregnant shopgirl Linette. (Their secret, faintly sordid encounters have been the only source of fantasy in his stifling provincial existence. But GÉrard impulsively uses his marriage as an excuse to depart from Poitiers forever--to escape from the constant complaints of his widowed mother, from the petty, humdrum routines of town-life, from the ""sense of appalling mediocrity"" that has always dogged him. And so the newlyweds set off to start a new life in Paris--where GÉrard has managed to get a lowly clerking job. Almost immediately, however, the big city proves too much for the couple. Linette, passive and ill and whiny, spends her days in bed. GÉrard, ambitious yet untalented, yearns for the Parisian high life, overspends, steals from his office's petty-cash supply, and begins a shabby liaison with a chic Spanish tart. Soon, encouraged by flashy friends, GÉrard is taking out loans and selling Linette's winter coat--all in order to outfit himself in fine style. (""All that was needed was a smart, three-piece suit, the real thing. . .and his whole life would undergo a transformation."") But finally, with the birth of their child imminent, GÉrard recoils from the ugliness beneath the urban flashiness--and opts for the comfort and sanity of provincial life after all: ""He was prepared to carry out his best, prepared even to take a certain pride in it. . .to submit to rules which he did not believe in, but to submit all the same, cheerfully, without revulsion, without bitterness, because it was necessary, because that was what he had come into the world to do."" Unlikable hero, unconvincing conclusion--but a low-key, grimly effective slice-of-life in the flat, unsentimental Simenon manner.