Friday, July 20, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Watchmaker -- Georges Simenon

I picked this book for only one reason: It's been on my shelves for decades, and I figured it was time I read it. As you might expect for a book published in 1957, the cover sensationalizes a story that's not sensational at all, but it's a pretty cool cover, so who cares?

When I started reading the book, I was a little surprised to see that it had an American setting. When I arrived at the end, I saw that Simenon was living at Shadow Rock Farm in Lakeview, Connecticut, when he wrote it. So I guess that explains the setting.

This is another of those older books that might not stand a chance of getting published today. The first twelve pages are all telling, without even a single line of dialogue. It's clearly building up to something, but it's hard to tell what that something is. Eventually we learn that the watchmaker's son, age 16, has taken the family car and a neighbor's daughter, age 15, and headed off for parts unknown.

Things don't go well for the son, however, and soon he's involved in robbery and murder. All this happens offstage, though. The book's not about that. It's about the father and how he comes to understand and accept what's happened. Depressing stuff. It's also about the media circus and American justice. (Aside: if Simenon thought there was media overkill in the middle '50s when this book was published, he should be around now when the kid would be getting interviewed on national TV by Sean Hannity.)

The ending is as downbeat as you'd expect. Not much hope for change or redemption here.

10 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think I liked this one more than you.

Bill Crider said...

I liked it but I didn't enjoy it, if that makes any sense.

Anonymous said...

I've had this one for decades too but haven't read it as yet. RSN (or perhaps not).

Jeff

John said...

This sounds like it could be categorized as one of his roman durs. Paul Theroux thinks that the books Simenon wrote when he was living in the US are his best. He eventually settled in Arizona. The book I reviewed was written when he was a desert dweller. I didn't have room in my post (and frnakly got very tired last night) to mention his "American period."

Dianna Shipman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bud said...

From your description, I doubt that I would have even liked this one. I haven't read very much Simenon, and I'm not that much of a mystery fan, but anyone who could write "The Little Saint", will get a pass from me for anything else!

Deb said...

One of the books I read (but decided against writing about in favor of Across the Street) was Simenon's Rules of the Game, written during his 'American' period. It's the story of a happily-married family man whose life begins to implode when he is black-balled from joining the local country club. It could easily have been written by John O'Hara--that chronicler of mid-century suburban angst. And there's a scene at a school board meeting where the town's wealthiest citizens complain about their taxes being used to finance a new school that could easily have been based on some school board meetings I've attended recently!

Anonymous said...

I was checking my database to see if I'd read one of the other Simenons reviewed today (The Venice Train - I hadn't) and, voila! It turns out I have read The Watchmaker of Everton after all. For a while I was reading a few Simenons (mixing Maigrets and non series books) every December and this one followed the more engaging (so to speak) Mr. Hire's Engagement in 1997.

Jeff

George said...

Love the cover! And, once again, you've displayed a book I've never seen before. Like you, I'm surprised at the number of Simenon books set in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Good point, George. It is a nice cover. A lot of mine are the plain green Penguin editions.

Actually, I have a nice Arrow paperback from 1959 of THE WATCHMAKER OF EVERTON.

Jeff