BIG BOB by Georges Simenon


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One of Simenon's sketchier character studies, especially slight in effect since it's virtually all presented as a second- or third-hand retrospective--through the eyes of the narrator, a middle-aged doctor who's curious when his friend Bob Dandurand, 47, commits suicide. Bob, you see, was the most cheerful of fellows, rather lazy, quite happy to depend on income from wife Lulu's hat-shop while he drifted from one job to another. So Dr. Charles Coindreau talks at length to Lulu, to Bob's young mistress (whom he himself soon beds), to Bob's sister. And at first glance it seems that almost-lawyer Bob was a classic Simenon-esque case of a respectable gent ruined by a coarse young girl (Bob's father was a professor, Lulu was a peasant/ prostitute); the doctor's wife says: ""Dandurand was a weakling. . . . He let himself be sucked down little by little into the bohemian life of Montmartre and became a failure. . . ."" But finally Dr. Coindreau learns that Bob had cancer, that he truly loved Lulu, that he killed himself so as to spare her the suffering of his drawn-out death. (Lulu herself soon follows him.) Barely more than a psychological anecdote, then--somewhat textured by a few grim Simenon touches (the widowed Lulu winds up being bossed around by a suddenly powerful spinster/employee/roommate) but too talkily reconstructed to generate much intensity.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich