Three Bedrooms in Manhatten

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten

Belgian fiction

Original title – Trois Chambres à Manhattan

Translators – Marc Romano and Lawrence G Blochman

Source – Review copy

I’m late to my review of this I initially picked it up in the summer and just wasn’t connecting to the book then I often find if I try a book at another time like I did with this one I get into it. When I have more time on my side and as I had a morning and I have always found Simenon writes books that on the whole are under two hundred pages long and can be read in a single sitting like this one. As this book now makes a Dozen book I have reviewed by him this is one of his standalone books. This book stems from the post-war years that Simenon himself had lived in New york. It follows a couple of European like himself who have been transplanted and are wandering around the big city like lost souls into they meet in this book.

He was surorised to find himself eyeing the boy who had took their order to make sure he didn’t know her, thart she hadn’t come here a hundred times with other men. Would he make some sign of recongnition to her ?

Yet he wasn’t in love with her. He wasn’t sure he wasn’t already he felt irritaion watching her fumble in  her purse for a cigarette, woth her commonplace gestures, the way she brought the cigarette up to her  lips, smudging it with her lipstick as she fished around for her lighter

Even at the start it is on rocky ground as he isn’t sure of Kay.

The two lost souls at the heart of this book are Frank and Kay. Frank is a middle-aged Actor divorced and struggling after a scandal that saw his wife leave him for a younger actor and he is now been in America for six months (this was about the same time Simenon himself had been in the US when he wrote this book). Then we have  Kay a socialite who has fallen on hard times as they meet in the night after drinking in one of the all-night dinners that are about in Postwar New York. These lost souls connect and end up sleeping together and as they connect and meet on a couple more occasions what happens is a relationship between two souls that are at the lowest ebb and clinging to each other and this brief interlude of sex in sordid hotels, I was struck at his description of a run in Kay’s stocking that she had just to live with a harrowing place to be in. Frank and Kay are damaged but in the end, it is a relationship doomed to the three bedrooms they end up in as we see this brief relationship.

She took his head in her hands. She pushed it against her shoulder, pressing his cheek to hers. She held it therm almost by force, as if to fill him, bit by bit, with her heat and  her presence.

He kept one eye open. Inside was a block of anger he meant to keep intact.

“You weren’t as alone as I was , ” she said. She said it softly.He wouldn’t have heard the words if herlips hadn’t neem by his ears.

It means more to her it seems at times that it does to Frank

This is different from the other books that I have read by him. There is a feeling it must have some of his own experiences spent in New York, just after world war two whereas seen in the book there is a lot of ex-pats wandering around after dark in this city it is like the cover picture which is Edward Hoppers Nighthawks painting apt as these two could have a jump of the picture. They also are like characters from a Tom Waits song or a Raymond Carver short stories this has a large chunk of Dirty realism at its heart this is the dark side of those early post-war years before the gleam and shine of the 50s the tough times had by those that had escaped the horrors of the war years as they are clinging to life through drink and getting by adding to that they both have other problems a wife leaving and losing ones home to also compete with this is a glimpse at people at there lowest point. The relationship reminds me of the one John Cusack described in the Film version of High fidelity (I hate the fact it was moved to the US ) but his relationship with Sarah is very like this relationship two souls clinging to each other when at their lowest ebbs. An interesting book it was made into a film in the early 60 and would still make a good film as the characters are universal in a way the way it deals with casual sex and people on the edge of life drifting through their nights out.

Winstons score – B+ a tale of two lost souls and a couple of brief erotic encounters.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Dec 27, 2021 @ 21:54:51

    I didn’t realise Simenon had written other fiction besides crime fiction. I shall keep an eye out for this one.
    But not in French. I tried one of his crime stories in French and couldn’t make sense of the slang.

    Reply

  2. Annabel (AnnaBookBel)
    Dec 31, 2021 @ 11:49:39

    I was lucky enough to meet Simenon’s son a few years ago, and he confirmed that this book was very autobiographical indeed.

    Reply

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