Sunday, November 28, 2021

Novellas in November: Three French Novellas

 In November I have read three translated novellas by French authors. All were very good reads. Two of the authors were new to me, Jean-Patrick Manchette and Pascal Garnier. I have read books by Georges Simenon before, but only one in recent years. 

Three to Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette was a very strange tale. A corporate salesman, Georges Gerfaut, married with two children, is attacked by two hit men on his way home, but they do not succeed in killing him. He suspects that they want to kill him because he saw a car crash on the side of the road and they want to shut him up. He goes into hiding and plots his revenge on the men and their boss. This story, published in 1976, sounds simple but is actually very complex. 

After Gerfaut escapes from the two men, he ends up living with an old man named Ragusa who lives in the woods simply, in a Portuguese logging camp. Ragusa has some medical experience with the military and patches Gerfaut up. Gerfaut stays with him for a few months, building up his strength. When Ragusa dies of a bad cold, Gerfaut leaves to pursue his plan of taking revenge. 

I liked that this story was different and unexpected; I had no clue how it would end. Music and reading is mentioned a lot, which I always find a plus. A lot of plot was covered in its 132 pages.

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier was another strange and different story. One night, after returning from a visit with his father, Fabien discovers that his wife has been killed in a car crash. She was the front seat passenger, in a car with a man, who also died in the crash. Fabien and his wife did not have a loving, happy marriage at the time of her death, but Fabien had no idea she was seeing someone else. He becomes obsessed with the wife of the man who died with his wife, and begins stalking her. The plot goes in directions I never expected. 

I cannot say much more about this one without revealing too much of the story. I liked it a lot and will find more by this author, who died in March 2010 at aged sixty. It was about 130 pages and published in 1997. 

Maigret in Retirement by George Simenon was also published as Maigret Gets Angry. Per Goodreads, it was first published in 1947, and was the 26th book out of 75 in the Maigret series. I came upon this story in Maigret's Christmas and it was about 105 pages in that edition, but it has been published separately. I enjoyed this one very much also. 

Two years after Maigret's retirement, a wealthy widow requests that Maigret come to her village to investigate the death of her granddaughter, which has been assumed to be suicide. Reluctantly, Maigret does this and discovers a dysfunctional family, full of people who dislike each other. His investigation reveals deeply buried secrets that the family has been hiding, and a family that seems to be bound together more by greed than love. 

The story is beautifully written, and the depiction of the French countryside is nicely done. And I love Maigret's relationship with his wife.

Three more novellas for the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck.


Margot Kinberg said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the Garnier, Tracy! I thought it was excellent, and I do recommend his other work. And, of course, you can't go wrong with Maigret stories... Sounds like you've had a good November novella month.

Rick Robinson said...

When I started reading mystery fiction as an adult, as opposed to, say, The Hardy Boys books, a novel was often 120 pages. Nero Wolfe, Mike Shayne, She’ll Scott, all are about that length. I know novels are big now, often overblown, but to me, over 100 pages is a novel, not a novella or novelette. Just sayin’.

I’ve read this Maigret, and liked it. He’s an interesting character in retirement.

TracyK said...

I am glad I finally read the Garnier, Margot. Not what I expected but very good.

TracyK said...

Rick, my personal definition of a novella has always been around 100 pages, and depending on type size maybe between 75 to 125 pages. But I hardly ever read any novellas, just like I ignored short stories for quite a while. Now I like shorter lengths much more than I did.

I loved the Maigret book and I like that all the books in the series are about that length ... in the new editions around 150 - 170 pages. I just got a copy of the first book in the series, Pietr the Latvian.

I finished The Snack Thief by Camilleri last night and loved it. I want to read the next book in the series very soon.

Cath said...

I like the sound of all of these, Tracy. Lots of twists and turns which is just what I like. I've read quite a few Maigret books and my favourites are always ones where Simenon depicts the French countryside or coast so wonderfully. He was a master at creating atmosphere.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I enjoyed HOW'S THE PAIN by Garnier and have more on my kindle. Always like Simenon, of course.

Sam Sattler said...

All three of these sound really good - and different. I don't read nearly enough in translation these days, and I'm always wondering what the rest of the world is reading. Someone gave me a small collection of about a dozen of the Maigret books a while back but I've only read one of them so far. I enjoyed it a lot and need to get back to that stack soon.

TracyK said...

Cath, I was very impressed with the stories by Garnier and Manchette. I thought that they might be too dark, but they were very good reads. After reading two Maigret books in this last year I am ready to read a lot more of his books. And I also want to try some of his non-Maigret books, even though I know they are darker.

TracyK said...

Thanks for that recommendation on HOW'S THE PAIN? by Garnier, Patti. I am glad to see that there are lots of his books translated to English.

I read lots of books by Simenon when I was younger, but of course I don't remember much about them. There was one of his non-Maigret books that I was so shocked by that I remember some of the plot still, but I would love to reread that one now and see how I like it.

TracyK said...

Sam, I envy you that stack of Maigret books. I do have a small stack of books by Simenon I have picked up over the years at the book sale and not read yet. And a couple of those are the non-Maigret, and I look forward to seeing what those are like.

I think I enjoyed the Italian and Spanish translated novellas I read for this challenge the most of all the books I read.