Simenon for Beginners

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Simenon for Beginners

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Juin 21, 2008, 7:17pm

NYRB has a lot of books by Georges Simenon - which would be a good book of his to start with if you've never read anything by him before?

Juin 21, 2008, 8:34pm

DieFledermaus, I'm so glad you asked that question. I remember running across Simenon in the 6th grade and reading one of his books (I don't remember which one). At the time, I didn't get him, although I was a pretty advanced reader. I could cry over Zola by that point. Recently, a friend of my discovered Simenon and has been raving about him. I've been reluctant to commit because I still have that old sixth-grade memory hanging over my head that Simenon was "rather boring"; however, I think I need to renew the acquaintance. It's amazing what a distance of 35 years can do to one's perception of a book.

Juin 21, 2008, 10:12pm

DieFledermaus, the only one I have read - so far - is the very first in the Maigret's series: Maigret and the enigmatic Lett.
I started with this one because I like to read series in order, whenever possible. I liked it, and the style and tone of the novel made me decide to pursue further reading by Simenon. If I have not read another Maigret yet is only because I have a ton of other very interesting books I want to read.

Juin 21, 2008, 10:41pm

As I understand it, the NYRB Simenons are his non-series books, grittier and more akin to noir. Unless I mistake, they're all standalone novels. I've read only a little Maigret, but have thought more seriously about these books, and avoided one - Dirty Snow? - because it seemed so unrelievedly bleak.

So far, that is. I am still interested, and would, myself, like guidance. Where to start? Perhaps, for me, The Strangers in the House? That one actually appeals a good bit, and bridges the gap between his romans durs and the detective story - only, more serious, darker, and altogether more interesting than average.

Juin 22, 2008, 3:08pm

Unrelievedly bleak is one reason I picked Dirty Snow as my first! I also went by who wrote the forewards. However, now its summer and I'm not sure I'm in the mood for Dirty Snow. I may start with Strangers as well.

Juin 24, 2008, 11:24am

I definitely fall into the camp of preferring the less "hard" of Simenon's "hard novels." My two favorites are The Engagement and The Strangers in the House. Both of these manage to do something I always find thrilling in literature: take reprehensible or just unsympathetic characters and transform them into full human beings. That said, Dirty Snow is an astonishing, memorable book, for all its unremitting bleakness.

Juin 26, 2008, 1:48am

Thank you both. Sarajill, as I sympathize strongly with what you've written, it's especially helpful to me. (Though I enjoy hearing about the full spectrum of reader interest, so no slight to slickdpdx.)

Juin 26, 2008, 2:06am

I was thinking that the description of The Engagement sounded interesting, so will have to put that on the to buy list. If I get around to Dirty Snow, I'll be sure to have a non-depressing book on hand to read at the same time.

Juil 7, 2008, 4:30pm

Strangers in the House was recommended to me as a good one to start with, but I couldn't get it and went for something else. Now I have read it I can see why it's so often recommended. Maigret in Court is also highlighted as one of the best in the "series" novels. I don't think it really matters about reading Maigret in order. If that were the case then what is the correct order, published work, or first in the vague timeline. If this is so then "Maigret's First Case" should be top of the list. But since Simenon especially wrote with very little of the background in the novels to actually give away any specific dates its not really an issue. well not for me. There is almost no mention of major world events, WW1, the stock market crash, Spanish Civil War, or even WW2. I actually like this because sometimes I have to stop reading and check the date of first publication to see what contemporary world events would have been going on!
Best wishes

Juil 8, 2008, 6:15pm

Like Eurydice, I have only read his Maigret books but I am curious about the other titltes now. DieFledermaus you'll have to let us know what you pick.

Juil 8, 2008, 11:56pm

Have you all seen the John Banville piece in LA Weekly about Simenon?

A blog I read just referenced it and introduced me to Simenon. I thought it might be of use.

Juil 10, 2008, 7:13pm

Ok, I ordered The Engagement - it might have to get bumped up the TBR list. Thanks for all the suggestions!

Août 14, 2008, 4:30pm

I would start with Simenon's Tropic Moon or Red Lights.

Août 27, 2008, 4:31am

I'll be starting The Engagement after finishing Manservant and Maidservant - hopefully it'll be good, since I bought a couple other Simenons at Powell's, The Little Man from Archangel and The Yellow Dog. Has anyone read these two?