8 October 2008

Forgotten Books - MAIGRET TAKES THE WATERS, Georges Simenon

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

If I had all the time in the world, then Simenon is another author that I would tackle from the beginning. MAIGRET TAKES THE WATERS is one of two novels (the other is MAIGRET HESITATES) inside the red cover to the right of centre in the photograph. The inscription on the flyleaf indicates I bought this in 1971, and I think I'd be right in saying, as I generally don't read books twice, that it has sat unopened for at least the last 35 years.

But there was a time I read whatever Maigret novels I could find. They are deceptively short - MAIGRET TAKES THE WATERS comes in at 143 pages - and they were ideal for taking on holidays. I remember them mainly being in the green Penguin livery.

From an Amazon review:
Feeling more than a little mortal, the famous Inspector Maigret has been instructed by his physician to take the cure at Vichy. He and Mme. Maigret speedily develop a daily routine at the spa, and an interest in the characters they see around them. The most enigmatic of these personalities is one they name "the lady in lilac." Will Maigret be able to resist becoming involved when this lady becomes the center of a murder investigation?

My library network lists 13 Maigret titles, but 2 of them are in Italian, 2 in Spanish, and 1 in French. MAIGRET TAKES THE WATERS is not amongst them.
Sadly it would be rather hard to take on a challenge to read all the Maigret novels beginning with the first in 1931. There's a good, but apparently not complete, list, on Wikipedia if you want to chase around the used book shops.
There are 76 titles in the list, nearly all translated into English, but confusingly some of them had as many as 3 alternative titles. The last was published in 1972.
However according to Wikipedia he wrote nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms.

Although usually regarded as French, Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was, like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Belgian, although he generally wrote in French. Christie (1890-1976) was really a contemporary of Simenon, although she was born just over 10 years earlier than him published her first novel 10 years earlier too. Simenon left Belgium for France in 1922, and lived in Paris until 1945. In 1945-1955 Simenon lived in the United States, returning to France and then Switzerland in 1955.

While Christie focussed on whodunnit, Simenon often seemed more interested in whydunnit. While Christie pioneered the cozy, Simenon had more in common with writers like Frederick Glauser, and recent writers like Michael Robotham. But Simenon was economic with words, and many of his novels were characterised by brevity and minimalist description.


Scott Parker said...

Your review struck a nerve with me as my next audiobook will be Michael Robotham's Suspect. Since I am in the process of self-educating myself in the world of crime fiction, I am tasting a little bit of everything. You can follow my progress over at my blog where I post weekly reviews. I think I'm going to have to add Simenon's name to my list. Thanks.

Kerrie said...

Glad you have discovered Michael Robotham Scott. You'll see that I am a great fan of his. I think the Maigret books may feel a litte dated to you but they are often just a bit bigger than a "novella" so don't take long to read. Drop by again sometime.

Ray said...

Interesting to see your books - the Companion Book Club did a lot to promote Maigret often producing either two Maigret novels together or coupling Maigret with another Simenon novel. Always short and forever compelling and real detective fiction that never overstayed it's welcome.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Maigret is my husband's favorite series detective. I like his standalone books better but some of these are amazing given his writing speed.

Kerrie said...

The Maigret books were remarkable in how "spare" the writing was. Until I did the research for this article I had no idea what Simenon's back story was either.
I loved a British produced Maigret TV series that starred Rupert Davies and Ewan Solon.
Thanks for dropping by Ray and Patti.


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