The Melting by Lize Spit

The Melting by Lize Spit

Belgium fiction

Original title – Het Smelt

Translator Kristen Gehrman

Source – review copy

This book was a big hit around Europe when it came out Lize spit debut novel won Hebban debut fiction prize and was snapped up for a film within days of it coming out which isn’t surprising at the Brussels film school she studied screenwriting there is a strong cinematic feel to the book. She said in an interview on the flemish literature site that she grew up in a house where there was no Tv till she was eleven and she grew up reading books after school and would run home every day to find out what was going in the books she was reading. What she has done here is taken to classic genres The coming of age novel and a thriller as we meet Eva a woman with a secret in her past.

In the summer of 1993, right before Laurens, pim and I finished preschool and started kindergarten,a letter was sent around to all of the teachers at the primary school and our six parents: a meeting had been planned , and the presence was required.

In the meeting, Beatrice the school principal, got right to the point. How it was possible that only three babes were borning 1988? Was it the cold winter, the hot summer, the black monday tyhe previous October that made couple take it easy in the bedroom for a while? Why were so few children born that year? Her school was the smallest in the region, with an average class size of ten(One of its greatest assests in her oponion)

So from an early age the the three Musketeers were together since a very young age !

There is a huge block of ice in the back of Eva’s car as she is heading back to the small town she grown up in she had an invite to a new milking parlor opening which has become a large event in the small town. The invite is from Pim one of her two best friends growing up. Pim lost his older brother as they were growing up something that Eva in the present keeps thinking about as she heads home for the first time in a long time. Laurens her other friend the three of them called themselves the three musketeers as they started growing into men and women one summer they started to ask each girl in the village a question about the sort of things kids do as they are discovering themselves and entering puberty. The story unfolds in the past that summer that it all changed for the three main characters the reason Eva has the ice in her car and her wanting revenge for the day her world changed. Then we see the present as Eva heads back to her family which is a mother that never stood up to her father a dominant man and thus this made her older sister a neurotic. As the ice slowly melts what happened is told and what will happen is told side by side.

Pim’s parents always let us play anywhere we wanted on the farm, but there were four places that were off-limits: the left side of the hayloft (The hay was too thin there, and we might fall through), the garage with the floor pit(the wood cover was rotten and dangerous). The septic tank grates in the old cowshed(no longer reliable), and the white mounds, That they were never given a reason for the last one, We were simply told that they were forbidden territory, even though they looked so innocent and inviting.

Once at a birthday party, Laurens rested his foto on the white plastic. Pim yanked him to the ground by the hood of his jacketso hard that it ripped off the snaps.

What are the white Mounds in the famers fileld that is now Pims field

The use of the two timelines is so well-paced the past unfolds as we see Eva heading in the present back into her past as she heads home for the first time the past is a tale of growing up but like over tales from Lord of the Flies to something like the dinner what happens when those events when young men and women are at that turning point in their puberty where a single moment can change the course of a number of lives this is what happened here the second timeline is a wonderful slow-burning thriller storyline of revenge viewed through Eva’s eyes as she heads home after 13 years. I said in the first part that she had studied screenwriting you can see and also her love of reading books that left her wanting more there is a lot of chapters ends here that make you want to read on. She has also used that twist that has been in a number of thrillers that have been made into films in recent years In particular two I’m thinking of are gone girl and the girl on the train which also in films at least had various strands to the storyline. but also had similar pacing to this book I can see why the film rights sold straight away the characters are painted well enough but it is the action and eye for detail she has that make it flows off the page so if you’d like a cocktail of gone girl, lord of the flies with a dab of Dumas thrown in this is the book for you.

Winstons Score – B a solid thriller with a great coming of age tale in a small farming village.

 

 

The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Le Petit Homme d’Arkhangelsk

Translator Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

A quick break from all the booker longlist books and another of the series of books that Penguin over the last few years have been retranslating from the great Belgian writer Georges Simenon. This is the 11th book from these books I have reviewed.  Here is a novel that shows how diverse his style was a crime novel but more a commentary on those values that simmer under the surface in small french towns and how when a meek mild-mannered man can get s=caught up through one simple lie. This book has been a radio drama on radio four and with a change in the origins of the main character, it was made into a film in 2007. This among critics it is considered to be one of his best books!

He makes the mistake of telling a lie. He sensed this is the moment he opened his mouth to answer fernand Le Bouc, and it was really inly from timidity and lack of self confidence that he hailed to change the words that rose to his lips.

So he said

“She’s gone to Bourges.”

Le boue,as he rinsed a glass behind the counter, asked,”La Loute still there, is she?”

He replied without looking up

“I suppose so”

It wasten in the morning and a thursdad, so the markjet was in full swing. In Fernand’s narrow, glass-frontedcafe on the corner of Impasse des tois-Rois, five or six men were standing at the counter. At the precise moment, it was not important who was present, but it would became so, and Jonas Milk would try to indentiry every face

The book opens with a little white lie that will snowball out of control for the meek Jonas.

The book follows a couple Jonas Milk and his gina a good wife she keeps their flat above their bookshop clean the marriage was sorted from her family to give her a settled base but there is little love companionship and a 16 year age difference. but she has one small problem her mild-mannered meek husband of Russian descent. This meek man isn’t enough so she spends the night with other men but she always returns. So when one morning when she hadn’t returned to her home when asked by a neighbor where his wife was that day she disappeared he says she had visited the local town as the days turn voices start turning toward Jonas the Russian who came to the town with his parents he went to Paris but returned to this village settled down. A man that is simple with plain tastes soon finds him at the heart of gossip and also a changing feeling as the longer Gina is away the more the eyes turn to the husband about what has happened to her. Jonas starts to feel the pressure build around him as he is trapped by what he had said as people cut him off and rumors start around him!

The left him in peace until monday, too much in peace perhaps, since it made him think they were distrancing themselves from him. Perhaps he was becoming too sensitive and ascribing to people non-existent intentions?

Having asked for news of Gina over the last two days, as insistently as if they were calling him to account, they no longer mentioned her in his presence now, and he suspected Le Bouc, ancel and the others were deliberately avoiding reffering to his wife.

Why had they suddenly lost interest in her? And if they knew where she was, what reason did they have not to tell him ?

The suspicions of Jonas grows and he starts to see the signs of the Anti semitisim and the suspicions around him?

This is different from the other books I have read by Simenon as they are mainly from the Maigret series of books here we have him looking at the way a small town can turn itself also an underlying feeling of anti Semitism that follows under the town when it turns out Gina may have not gone to the next town and all eyes turn on Jonas the Russian although he has lived in France most of his life and is French. It is a story of the undercurrents that flow in small towns like this in the post-war years where the mistrust is never far away. What happened to Gina, what will happen to Jonas. It is a perfect evening to read a glimpse into a small french town that becomes fevered rather like in Agartha christie towns there is an undercurrent against the immigrant. There are two more coming in the series of non-Maigret books coming this year. Have you read this or any of the other non-Maigret Simenon books.

Winstons score  -A  This is a perfect book for an early summer evening.

 

Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon

Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title –  Maigret et Monsieur Charles

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

I was pleased I was sent this title which is the last of the novels of the Maigret series that Penguin has been putting out in new translations. I was in at the start and have reviewed nine of the new title including this one. In fact, it was six years ago yesterday I posted my review of Pietr the Latvian which came out in 1931 this his last novel featuring Maigret was written in 1972 with many years Simenon publishing two Maigret books I still have  66 of the new series to read. But it has been a great achievement from Penguin to bring this and many of his novels out in new translations. I do hope we see more of these in the Rowan Atkinson series that has done bur it seems to have been cancelled which is a shame.

“You are Detective Chief Inspector Maigret, are you not?”

“Yes”

“I Imagined you fatter”

She was wearing a fur coat and matching hat,was it mink? Maigret had no idea, because the wife of a divisionary chief inspector genrally had to be content with rabbit or, at best , muskrat or nutria

Madame Sabin-Levesque’s eyes roved slowly around the office as if making an inventory. When Lapointe sat down at the desk, with his notebook and pencil,she asked

“Is this youngmany going to stay in the room?”

“Of course”

“Is he going make a not of our conversation?”

“It’s the rule”

Her brow furrowed and she gripped her crocodile sjin hand bag tighter

She reports Gerard disappearance and seems to be a lady by the description but there is more than fur and crocodile skin.

Maigret is nearing his retirement and is on the verge of an office job when this case comes across his desk. When Nathalie Sabin- Levesque whose husband Gerard but then Maigret and Lapointe discover that he is well known around the town and often leaves his wife for days drinking and is known to the girls of the night he meets as  Monsieur Charles. So he had disappeared a month earlier than they expected when Nathalie first came to them due to his habit of disappearing for days. Charles /Gerrard works for successful lawyers this shows the other side of his life the people he works with aren’t fans of his wife. WHo had said she was a legal secretary when she met Gerrard but who it turns out was a call girl that he married and she has tried to take up the mantle of a rich wife. But she has her ghost from her past trying to threaten her. In turn, has this effect her husband when he turns up dead Maigret is faced with a choice in what is maybe the last time he can tread those dark alleys, bars, cafes of Paris.

“Do you haveany news?” He asked

“Not news, exactly. As far as I know, the last person who saw your boss was hostedd at the cric-Crac in Rue Clement- Marot, And when he left her he was supposed to go to Avenue des Ternes, where a young woman was expecting him… That was in the middle of the night of the 18th of feburary… He never turned up at the Avenue des Termes … Perhaps he changed his mind on the way?

Charles had a habit of disappearing for days.

The feeling is the later Maigrets are weaker than the earlier ones but like Doyle when he wrote the Holmes stories they just run out of material for their character to do. So there is common threads in the books to earlier works fallen woman ladies of the night is a recurring character in Maigret. The rich doing wrong is another recurring theme in Maigret. When Maigret and Lapointe head out to find Monsieur Charles and what he is like it seems old times as they hunt the dark underbelly of Paris. It has a poor marriage at its heart a husband that married a call girl and carried on as he always did a wife that wants the world he lived in but instead is caught in a limbo. It is a story that has many twists and turns in it but maybe isn’t as original as the earlier books seemed.

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

Belgian fiction

Original title – Sept Nouvelles

Translator – Faith Evans

Source – review copy

I featured a picture of this for my women in translation covers piece earlier in the week. I had read this a while ago as it came out in May but felt it was a great choice for women in translation month as it shows what Pushkin do so well and that is rediscovered writers that have disappeared here we have the Belgian writer Madeliene Bourdouxhe although she moved with her family at a young age to Paris  during world war one returning to Brussels to attend university, She married a maths teacher  and began writing during the war she was in the resistance . After the war, she frequently went to Paris meeting writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Queneau. This collection was published firstly in the late eighties and it great it is back in print in a Pushkin edition.

Come on, “he said, “get some change..”

She went in and returned with the notes. She watched Nicholas as he hung the hose back on the petrol pump and handed over the change; she watched the cas as it pulled out , re-entered the right lane, and disappeared in the direction of Masions-Alfort. At the garage over the way anpther car pulled in. The women who worked there was tall, gaunt and older that Anna, and she wore an old fashion chignon on the crown of her head , fastened not with hairpin but with four or five criss-crossing nails, which formed a rosette around the chignon, a real curiosity

I loved anna description of the woman over the road her hair sounds so unusual and destinctive with its nails holding it in place!!

This is a collection of stories all but one is told from a female point of view. The woman, on the whole, seem to maybe be a general vision of women in the pre and war years this book came out in 1944 the last story touches on this story Sous le point Mirabeau follows a Belgian woman, just become a mother and with many others trying to get into France. I liked another story Blanche it starts with a husband asking if his shirt is ironed but his wife is wistful dreamy Blanche doesn’t see her life as a housewife so doesn’t iron her short this is a woman that maybe is one the edge at one point when she heads into the woods with her son its dark he says but we are looking for squirrels to reassure him this scene makes you wonder what was going to happen . In other stories, we have one  Rene is the flip of the other stories a man looking at ordinary women lives this is a subtle collection of ordinary lives brought to life from Heartbreak to Trauma.

Blanche hurried along the path, holding her hand. Some drops of rain were still falling but the heat of the day lingering and the air was warm.

“Shall we walk through the wooods? Blanche said.

“Its all black in therem I’de be frightened” said Jean-Louis

“You mustn’t be afraid of the wood. We might see some squirrels in there …”

“Squirrels? All right then,” Said Jean-Louis

Blanche takes her son into the dark woods one night …

I held this back as it was so perfect for this month from the great cover art of a factory girl of the time a strong woman, an ordinary woman which is what Bourdouxhe captures so well in this book. she captures the voice and internal feeling of the women she writes about okay they are all very similar in character but they also show maybe the changing thoughts of the writer at the time this collection came out in 1944 a time when the writer her self had seen action in the resistance but women’s roles  in the home and workplace had changed during those war years. I feel this is an undercurrent in these characters from Blanche feeling unlike a housewife to trying to get to France in a crowd. There is a number of other books that the translator had translated inn the eighties lets hope they also get reissued. Have you read her books?

 

Inspector Cadaver by Georges Simenon

 

Inspector Cadaver by Georges Simenon

Inspector Cadaver by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – L’Inspecteur Cadavre

Translator William Hobson

Source – library book

I had another couple of books set aside for 1944 club but started one and didn’t get into it and the other was rather long so I had picked this up in the library last week after thinking Had Simenon wrote any books in 1944. Not that hard to imagine he hadn’t as he wrote 700 novels in his life and there is a good chance he had written some books in 1944. He turned out to have written three Maigret books that year This and as the earlier title was Maigret and the fortuneteller and Maigret and the toy village the later I knew as it was used as one of the earlier ITV Maigret series with Micheal Gambon called Felice. Now it has a common theme with this book as well.

“You don’t need anything ? I was forgetting … let me show you the w.c..”

The Men shake hands, and then Maigret undresses and gets in bed. He hears noises in the house. from very far off in his half sleep his ears cathc what sounds like the murmuring of voices , but it sonns fades awaym and the house becomes quiet as it is dark.

He falls asleep, of thinks he does. He keeps seeing the dismal face of Carve, who had to be the most miserable man on this earht, and then he dreams that the apple-cheeked maid who waited on them at dinner is bringing him his breakfast.

Magiret arrives and meets carve and dreams of him and the local maid that first nifght in the village.

Felice like Inspector Cadaver sees Maigret outside his home turf of Paris. He heads to a small village like in Felice. This time he is doing a favor for a Judge friend. The brother in law of the Judge Etienne Naud a landowner in the village of Saint Aubin Les Marias. On January 7 a man was killed by the train the Albert was crushed by a train.The young man had a connection to the Naud family.  Now the Judge is worried as he brother in law has said the rumor going around is that he has done it and Maigret is asked to go and try and find out what happened. When he arrives he sees another man that he has known in the past a former Policeman that Maigret had a run in whilst they were both still policeman the man Carve was called Inspector cadaver by his fellow officers. He wasn’t the best policeman what is he doing in the village. As Maigret starts to ask questions around the village everyone is silent. But as it becomes clear what sort of man Maigret is and that is a man of truth and justice the locals start to open up about the event before and during that fateful night.

The question Maigret had been turning over in his mind since the previous evening was this;  was he staying with decent sorts who had nothing to hide and were extending their warmest welcome to a guest from Paris, or was he an undesirable outsider whom examining Magistrate Brejon had thoughtlessly imposed on a non plussed household who would gladly have dispensed with his services.

Maigret gets there and feelslike the Nauds doin’t really want him there.

I was reading this earlier in the week and Kaggyy put up her review of this book as well. I left reading it so I had read the book and thought what I thought of the book. This has part of what we haven’t seen yet in the recent Maigret tv series and that is him outside Paris he was in one of the new books but it did link back to Paris this is a story set in the Village. I had the Gambon Maigret in mind for this story as he seems o more suited in my mind to the ones outside Paris he actually did what Simenon did there and Kaggy point out and that he tended to side with the common folk in the story this especially in Felice where he sided with the young woman in the village  that everyone else had problems with he was a man of the poor and the underdog . he is also like a terrier dog as a detective not graceful more get stuck in and the clues are there and he goes around at times he is quite blunt in this book. Then there is also the story of his old rival as a second storyline the story of how Carve was made to leave the police. Another enjoyable book in this series and it brings to eight of the Maigrets I have reviewed there is still a lot to go in the series hopefully next club will also have one to review !!

Maigret’s Secret by Georges Simenon

 

Maigret’s secret by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title –  Une confidence de Maigret

Translator – David watson

Source – personal copy

It has been ten months since I reviewed a Maigret on the blog so when a search for a holiday read, I choose the latest of the series of books that Penguin has been bringing out over the last few years. This is one of the later books. This is slightly different to the other books I have read as Maigret himself is retelling the events of the case many years after the event. There is still a number of Maigret books to come I will be dipping in over the years to come I am sure not in order unfortunately but as they appeal to me.

A longer silence. He emptied his pipe and took another one from his pocket, which he slowly filled, seeming to caress the briar.

I remember one case, not so long ago .. Did you follow the josset affair ?

“The name rings a bell”

“There was a lot in the papers about it, but the true story insofar as there is a true story was never told”

It was very unnusual for him to talk about a case he had been involved in. Occasionally, at Quai des Orfevres, among colleagues, some famous case or some difficult investigation might be mentioned, but it was always a passing allusion.

Magriet starts talking about Josset and his case with him a rare event.

Maigret is at a dinner party one evening when he starts telling his fellow guests a story of an old case that since it happened had troubled him.The case is that of one Adrien Josset. He is a man that came from a modest background. But thanks to his wives wealth gets a position which gives him a good standard of living. He is also having an affair with his secretary Annette a much younger woman than his wife. So when after a night out with his mistress where he bumps into Annette’s father and somehow says he will marry her. So when he returns and later his wife turns up dead he is, of course, the number one suspect. But over the interviews with Josset  Maigret feels this man is innocent and believes his story. But the problem is the case is quickly seized upon by the press and when events outside the case lead to a backlash against Josset and puts him in the frame in the publics Eye what is Maigret to do, this is what he expains over the course of two evening to his friends at a dinner party.

Certain details of the case were etched more sharply than others in Maigret’s memory. Even years later he could recall the particular taste and smell of the rain shower in the Rue Caulaincourt as keenly as a childhood memory.

It was six thirty in the evening, and when the rain started it did not obscure the sun, already red above the rooftops. The sky remained ablaze, the window shimmering with the reflected light, and only a siingle pearl grey clud, slightly darker at the centre and glowing at its edges, floated over the streets, as light as a ballon.

Maigret recalls visitng a scene involved in the crime and remembers it years later.

This is different to the over  Maigret as it shows the foibles of the man. But it maybe is quite a modern story as it shows the power of the press in forming public opinion. This happens more so now than it used to I can think of a number of cases over the last few years where the press has driven public opinon in the case. This is shown to great effect in the book. Maigret is shown as a fair man like he is in the other books but one that can also dwell on events that have happened. This is also a classic what might have ben in a way one of those case that seems open and shut when it starts.

Maigret and the man on the bench by Georges Simenon

Maigret and the man on the beach

Belgian fiction

Original title – Maigret et l’homme du banc

Translator – David Watson

Source – Library copy

At the start of the year I reviewed the last Maigret book to be made into one of the new series of tv dramas starring Rowan Atkinson Maigret and the dead man, I was in the library the other day and this cover of one of the most recent editions opf the penguin series to reissue new translations of all the Maigret books caught my eye .

His clothes were clean , respectable . He was wearing a dark suit, a biege raincoat and on his feet which were twisted at an odd angle , he wore greenish-yellow shoes, which seemed out of keeping with a day as colourless at this

Apart from his shoes, he appeared so ordinary that he would have passed completely unnoticed onn the street or on one of the numerous cafe terraces on the boulevard. Neverless, the policeman who discovered him said :

“I get the feeling , I’ve seen him before.”

The body would be anypone apart from those shoes of his !!

So this is like the other novels and all starts with a murder . Louis Thouret is found dead on a bench at a dead-end road. He seems normal enough barring a rather bright pair of yellow shoes. As Maigret takes his wife to see him she says his shoes weren’t his own and at the time he died he should have been work . The usual team around Maigret swing into action , the place he worked isn’t there in fact Louis had worked for a long while getting by on loans and then taking a turn into the world of crime but his family seemed to have known nothing about the double life he was living which meant another flat and life away . But as they ask the family maybe his daughter had more to say than she did. Maigret grows to like Louis and he efforts to keep his family unaware of the loss his job.

“Kaplan and Zanin’s ?” he asked her

“the company closed down three years ago next month my good man ”

“wer you already working here ?”

“I’ll have been here twenty-six years this December.”

“Did you know Louis Thouret?”

“Why of course I knew Monsieur Louis! What has become of him? It must be four of five months since he last dropped by to say hello”

“He’s dead” she immediately stopped sorting the letter.

“He always enjoyed such good health ! What was it ? Heart,I’ll bet just like my husband…”

“He was stabbed to death , yesterday afternoon , not far from here .”

They discover his old workplace has long since ceased trading !

This is a classic story line from crime fiction .I know of a couple of similar classic tales from couple of other classic Crime writers. Connan Doyles Holmes investigated the case of the man with the twisted lip where a respected man thought to have died in an opium den and there is a beggar that is well-known for his ability to quote poetry is he the missing man ? . This is also a similar plot themes  to the Poirot the disappearance of mr Davenheim where the main character disappears but had made a sideline as a  criminal and had spent time in prison not south africa as he said , as part of a plan to frame someone. These both involved the male head of a family that has lost position , money or a job , but was too proud to admit it thus leading them to a life on the other side of the fence of the law.The book was originally released as a part work in the french paper Le figaro in the fifties. I wonder if this will get the Atkinson treatment who since he became Maigret is now whom I picture when reading these books.

Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin

Monte Carlo by Peter Terrin

Belgian  fiction

Original title – Monte Carlo

Translator – David Doherty

Source – Review copy

Now on to the books that could be on next years man booker list and first up is the second book I have reviewed buy the rising star of Belgian fiction Peter Terrin , I reviewed him first when he was part of the best european fiction in 2010. Since then he had his novels the Guard and post-mortem come out in english this is the first of his books I have read , I do have the earlier books and read the guard but it slipped the review net at the time. But this is a book about a time I love the golden age of motor sport in the 60’s when we got the feel of this book in the film Grand prix .But the other side of this book is obsession Male obsession and also how scars can become attractive to woman .

It happens by accident . The woman has been holding the camera for some time , peering through the viewfinder now and again, taking the occasional snap. But now she waits, realising that the film is almost full, that she probably has only one photograph left. She wants to wait for the right moment, yet later she will not be able to recall taking the final shot .The fuel is no longer liquid , the transition is taking place.She remembers the heat hitting her face, an invisible cloud, the fire not yet fire

The photo misses Jacks part in saving Dee Dee

The book starts as we join jack Preston ,he is a mechanic for Team sutton, the rising team on the grid. They are in the city of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand prix , probably the most iconic of all the race on the formula one circuit and always one to attract the beautiful people and One such is Deedee one of those sixties starlets , I got a feel of cross between Bardot , Fonda and Rigg . Even to later in the book having a part in  the Avengers .Well she has caught Jack’s eye and as an accident on the grid cause a fireball and he save her  from it and after wards has to return to his old home to recover and awaits a thank you but no mention .This is where the book turns and the screw of obsession turns as he waits for her and for his team to come to his aid and free him from provincial life.His wife also has become a bit of vixen driven by her husbands scars

One evening Deedee looked straight into his eyes

Steed had disappeared without trace and she did not know whether he was alive or dead. Speechless, racked with doubt, she wnet into the bathroom, leaned against the washbasin and gazed into the mirror – straight into the camera’s lens – for seconds on end

Jack Prestons nails deep into the arm of the settee.

there was no need for her to speak.

She was entrusting something to him.To him alone.Her look was like a whisper in his ear.

Jack’s obsession with Deedee has grown since he returned home .

He has been compared to Kafka before but at times this was to me an Homage to Hitchcock in a way the way Dee Dee is described made me think of the classic starlets that made the golden age of Hitchcock films like Vertigo or rear window(even Grace Kelly is at the track ) .He manages to get the feeling of male obsession as Deedee becomes both a thing of love and hate in Jack’s eyes . Terrin manages to get the feel of the time a new tobacco sponsor for the team reminds you of when the cars where Jps or Malboro colours  . This novel is about  how Jack  thought he saw something in a glimpse of a second just  before the  disaster struck and how that small moment has led to a mix of obsession and hate as he awaits being acknowledge for what he did. Then there is the return home and his obsessive wife for his scars  that has made her a vixen.While Jack grows in love and loathing at lack of thanks for what he did from Deedee which means a year later the race has a sad start as things come to a head.Terrin has written a short novel that has a classic feel to its writing and settings .

 

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans

 

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans

Belgian fiction

Original title – Oorlog en terpentijn

Translator- David Mckay

Source – review copy

Stefan Hertmans is a poet , novelist and short story writer . He has won a number of prizes including the AKO prize for this book. this is the next stop on the man booker list this is the one I felt would be on the liust as it was frequently compared to Sebald when it came out, which in a way made me get to it later in the list in case I was disappointed by it , which I wasn’t that it was very Sebald like (it isn’t really yes it has pictures and place and memories but in another context it isn’t Sebald work mainly dealt with the outfall of world war two ).

Strange as it may seem, there were details of my own world that never offered up their historical secrets until I read his memoirs: a gold pocket watch shattering on the tile floor ; an oval cigarette from a silver case , smoked in secret, which made me nauseous when I was fifteen years old ; a worn reddish-brown scarf on the discard cupboards in the dilapidated greenhouses, covered within droplets of the disoriented blackbirds that would throw themselves against the glass in panic .

Images of his youth come to life in his grandfathers notebooks

 

The story goes Urbain wrote these notebooks and he died in the sixties the son of a painter also called Urbaine were passed to his grand son Stefan the writer but he left them for thirty year what follows is his story of reading them. The first part of the story is pre world war one father and son in a the city og Ghent  just getting by making ends meet painting small fresco in churches around the town , a one point the son takes a job in gelatine factory , remind me of the time we see David Copperfield an artist in the making in the bottle factory another dangerous job .Now unlike Dickens in Urbaine case the war sends his life in another direction the most of the book is the grandfathers notebooks of his war experiences , very much like most war accounts of the tome we have a real feel of Mud , the trenches , rats and death in the air all around them. A break comes when he is sent to Liverpool to recover and paints the sea and places round Wallasey (I found an ironic connection to Hitler , here who many years earlier was in the same city painting ) The last part is post war a love story.

As soon as my health and the weather permitted I went out searching .Maud was right:in St James Street I found the church of St Vincent de Paul. My heart was pounding as I entered its damp , sparsely decorated interior. On the dingy walls to the left, there was no sign of any murals my father might have worked on. On the right , I found the stations of the cross on panels .there happened to be men at work in the church , whitewashing walls. They couldn’t recall any frescos under the whitewash.

Urbain tries to find a fresco his father did in Liverpool was he recovers

Now the book is littered with pictures the start that inspired father and son , the buildings of Ghent . Then in the war years the only picture we see is the one of Urbaine in his uniform at the end of the war a man with that thousand yard stare of someone who has seen death in the eye. This is slightly like Sebald , even in the last part of the book there is a quote from Vertigo .  The nearest english novel would be Siegfried  Sassoon cycle of books The Sherston trilogy , which follows a mans pre war and post war and war-time journey like this novel does . Hertmans manages to capture the madness brutality and darkness of the first world war.  I enjoyed this book it is destined to be a modern classic.

Maigret’s dead man by Geroges Simenon

Maigret's Dead Man

Maigret’s Dead man by Geroges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Maigret et son Mort

Translator – David Coward

Source – review copy

I got an email from the folks that deal with all things Maigret and Simenon in the uk as if I want a copy of this one of the latest from the penguin series Maigret books , they are slowly month by month doing new translations of all the novels in the series which runs to 75 novels and a few short stories collection. This particular book was the latest to be adapted for tv in the new series starring Rowan Atkinson as the latest actor to become Jules Maigret.

“Hello ?….Who is on the line ?..”

Normally the officer on the police switchboard did not put through ay but the most urgent calls.

“I’m sorry sir…it’s a man. He won’t give his name but is very insistent.says he must absolutely talk to you … He swears it’s a matter of life and death…

“And he wants to speak to me personally ?”

“Yes.. shall I put him through?”

Maigret heard a voice saying anxiously ;

“Hello? .. is that you ?

“Detective chief inspector Maigret,yes..”

“I’m sorry about this..My name wouldn’t mean anything to you.. you don’t know me,but you used to know my wife Nina.. HELLO? .. I’ve got to tell you something might happen that…

The call that sets on the trail to find out who the Dead man of the title is and what his secret was !

I read the book before watching the adaptation . Well first point I now have Atkinson in my head as Maigret having previously had him in the form of Micheal Gambon. This book wasn’t part of the Gambon series and is actually one of the hefty novels I have read from Simenon coming in at over 220 pages long for his books , I always see him as an evening read. This also has a clever dual plotline the first plot sees Maigret getting a number of calls from a man who wants to meet him but when they arrange to meet he isn’t there Maigret traces his calls and tries to find out who this man is especially when his body turns up and no-one turns up . The man is middle-aged normal , not a typical criminal type. Then he is told to forget this to help in solving a number of crimes happening in the country that due to a lead has led the gang causing them back to Paris. Maigret is like a bulldog thou and can’t drop this first item to fetch the second but as by chance the man is discovered and his life is revealed . But as the other crime unfolds it is maybe a one in a million chance but it has happened this ordinary guy has led them into a break in the second crime and to the gang carrying out the violent crimes a gang from  outside France but lead by a man in a fur coat . Who is he a criminal mastermind or is his fur Fake ?

It wasn’t a winning slip he had found that morning but a train ticket.

If such had not been his habit ..if he hadn’t seen the man from whose pocket it had dropped.. If the name Goderville had not instantly made him think of the massacres perpetrated by the Picardy gang.. if his feelings had not been written on his face ..

“Poor Albert !” sighed Maigret

That one point the two plots touch just a mere second that leads to the capture of the gang and the death of poor albert as Maigret calls him.

 

I enjoyed this it has more twists than other Maigret books I have read and the clever use of two plot lines that like two ever decreasing orbits end up colliding an exploding. A chance find leads to a violent crime a Man with no real luck runs out of luck just as he has found the clue he wanted to give the Great Maigret a man he admired so much especially as his wife had once had a chance meeting with Jules. So a sad cafe and a couple with no child lead to a threesome of rough czech criminals and a woman with a child that maybe shouldn’t be having one. At this part I felt he was drifting more into his other novel style of the roman durs he wrote that Penguin is also republishing those psychological novels about the human spirit and mind. This is a great choice for the second Atkinson show it has taken him in a different direction to the Gambon which were lighthearted at times and also very nostalgia lead where as THe new one seems much darker and more on Maigret but also those around him his deputies like Janvier who play major part in the book seem more to the fore now.I must admit I wasn’t to pleased when rowan Atkinson got the part but he has managed to win me over with a performance that is very straight not a hint of the man who with a twitch of his nose can have you bent over in laughter.

Did you watch or read this Maigret this christmas ?

 

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