THE GRANDMOTHER by Georges Simenon


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Minor psychological Simenon, circa 1959: a reckless, high-living, glamorous celebrity has her flimsy, childish approach to life bared through a confrontation with her strange old grandmother. The celebrity is parachute-jumper Sophie, and her grandmother Juliette (whom she hasn't seen in years) suddenly turns up as a suicidal old woman, the last holdout in a nearby building that's about to be torn down. Sophie is summoned to reason with Juliette; and Juliette responds with alarming alacrity, quite happily forsaking her last stand to move (with all her things) to Sophie's chic apartment, which is also inhabited by taciturn maid Louise and emotionally fragile singer LÉlia, Sophie's current poor-little-friend-in-need. But things are uneasy from the start, though the two women share their somewhat similar life stories and feelings about men. Juliette (""I'm not nice and I'm too old to start now"") forcefully creates her own little world within Sophie's; Sophie sees herself in JulJette's pattern of essentially empty, parasitical, manipulative relationships; the two try to wound each other (Sophie's ugly wild parties, Juliette's suicide-threats and nasty digs), to dominate; pathetic LÉlia, caught between, moves out. And finally, after Juliette confesses her worst sin (helping her ill husband to suicide), she's totally rejected by Sophie and kills herself, leaving the granddaughter hollowly triumphant and essentially unchanged: ""She was going to have to begin all over again, to find something else to fasten on to."" An initially intriguing situation, rather murkily fleshed out--but the clean translation shows off Simenon's expertise at leanly achieved atmosphere and his impressively un-dated knack for rounded female characterization. Interesting.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich