Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Wednesday Book Review Club (third Wednesday this month)

Where the idea for CONCRETE ANGEL came from. 
And a review from Randy Johnson.







This is one of Simenon’s standalones, which I generally prefer to the more formulaic Maigrets. A French family lives comfortably, if claustrophobically, outside of town. The first person narrator is twenty-one and works at the local hospital as a research assistant. She’s having a rather prosaic affair with her employer, an older scientist. Her younger brother is taking classes at the local college, majoring in chemistry. 


The two siblings live with their parents in a state of constant tension. The mother is an alcoholic, and goes on binges that the rest of the family calls ‘novenas’. Her behavior seems to date from the beginning of her marriage and has almost a formal structure to it. The tension of her behavior is palpable throughout the story.


A newly hired maid, a sexually obliging sort of girl, Manuela, from Spain, brings some needed air into this hothouse. Both father and son begin sleeping with her. Neither is satisfied with this arrangement.


When Manuela disappears. it is unclear what has happened and the ambiguity will either intrigue or annoy you. The ending is surprising, yet fitting. This was not my favorite Simenon and yet it succeeded in keeping my interest. Short novels stand a better chance of doing that.

For more review, visit Barrie Summy's place. (Where I think CONCRETE ANGEL may have a review)

11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

A lot of people actually prefer Simenon's standalones to his series. I'm glad this one held your interest, even if it wasn't tops on your list.

Deb said...

I go into his stand-alones with a different mindset. I know the Maigrets are going to follow a basic structure (I love them; to me they're like comfort food), whereas the stand-alones are going to usually focus much more on the psychology of the main characters. If my expectations are aligned with what the book can offer, I enjoy reading it much more.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I thought I'd read this one - after all, I've read over 100 Simenons and the plot sounds awfully familiar - but a check of the database shows I haven't. The stand alones can range from very good to not so good. I will definitely read this one.

Jeff M.

PS - Looking forward to seeing you and Phil this afternoon!

George Kelley said...

I checked my database and found I had read NOVEMBER back in 1991. I've binged on Simenon several times over the decades. Once I get started, I don't want to stop with just one book!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I'm the same way, George. When I read one I usually read 3-4.

Jeff

R.K. Robinson said...

I love the Maigret books but have tried only one non-series book (can't recall which. As usual, the others have read, or binged, on lots of the books while I have read only some. I probably have 40 Maigret books still to read.

Sarah Laurence said...

Doesn't sound like my type of book but I enjoyed your review. Congrats on your own murder mystery!

Cloudbuster said...

Ooh! Intriguing. I've not read any of Simenon's books, but now you've got me interested. Great review!

Linda McLaughlin said...

I haven't read Simenon either, but suspect I would enjoy the Maigret novels better.

Congratulations on your first novel, Patti! It sounds marvelous.

troutbirder said...

This is all new to me. Interesting....

Barrie said...

I read a Maigret mystery...in French! Don't be too impressed; I had to for a university course. :) Although I did love it and went on to read more of them. But I've never read a Simenon standalone. At least not yet! And...huge congratulations on Concrete Angel. I'm reading it this summer!!! And can't wait!!