THE WIDOWER by Georges Simenon


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Typical, if not vintage, non-Maigret Simenon: once again (circa 1959) he broods on the hopeless relationship between a middle-class milquetoast and a past-imprisoned prostitute. Here the pathetic lover is commercial artist Jeantet, 40, who returns home one day to find his 28-year-old wife Jeanne unexplainably missing. And as he worries about Jeanne with increasing despair, we learn about the couple's mismatched past: eight years ago, Jeantet rescued streetwalker Jeanne from an abusive pimp, then married her against the advice of one and all. The marriage, however, turned out to be a success--or so Jeantet has thought. Now, however, the missing Jeanne is found: a suicide in a strange fiat, with not even a note to Jeantet left behind. And Jeantet's world collapses as he learns that Jeanne has been regularly unfaithful; that though she admired and pitied him, she was epically bored by their marriage; that everyone (Jeanne's family, the neighbors) views him with scorn; and, finally, that Jeanne had a secret son by her high-placed lover--a son whom Jeantet decides to adopt (an unusually upbeat, if somewhat ambivalent, fadeout for Simenon). So: familiar themes, leanly and moodily worked out, but with less distinction or empathy than many other Simenon treatments of doomed, odd-couple wedlock.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich