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The Strangers in the House (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Georges Simenon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Simenon's books are a treasure April 17 2014
By happy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an author I particularly enjoy. He provides an in-depth picture of the mental psychology of each of his characters.Please keep getting his books.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have been a stranger in a strange land Dec 21 2006
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Exodus ii. 22.

Georges Simenon was nothing if not prolific in both his literary and public life. Born in Belgium in 1903, Simenon turned out hundreds of novels. Simenon's obsession with writing caused him to break off an affair (he was prolific in this area of his life as well) with the celebrated Josephine Baker in Paris when he could only write twelve novels in the twelve month period in which they were involved. Although perhaps best known for his Inspector Maigret detective novels, Simenon also wrote over a hundred novels that he referred to as `romans durs' (literally "hard novels"). "Strangers in the House" is one of Simenon's hard novels and to call it noir is not an understatement.

Hector Loursat, an accomplished attorney, has been a stranger in his own house ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child eighteen years ago. Since that time Loursat's universe has shrunk to his bedroom, his library and his dining room. He barely speaks to his now 18 year old daughter or their cook. They are for all intents and purposes, strangers. He is a hermit, alone with his books and a profligate amount of burgundy and brandy. It is only the murderous presence of other strangers in his house that may stir him out of his emotional coma. That dark-setting forms the backdrop for "Strangers in the House".

Loursat is roused from his alcohol-induced sleep by what he thinks may be a gunshot. His suspicions are confirmed when he stumbles through portions of the house he hasn't seen in years and discovers a body. He soon discovers that his daughter has fallen in with something of a gang of youths who like to live on the edge. The rest of the novel finds Loursat grappling with the implications of the murder. We see Loursat struggling out of his hermetic cocoon. The reader is left to wonder, as the story progresses, whether Loursat can break out of his cocoon long enough to connect with his daughter and protect her interests through a criminal investigation and trial.

The result is wholly satisfying. I was totally drawn to the character of Loursat. Simenon does not make him particularly attractive. His word pictures of Loursat's appearance and manner are not designed to elicit great sympathy. Nevertheless, the pain Loursat has suffered (although unstated) is palpable and as the story progressed I could not help but hope that Loursat would find the strength to `set things right' both with the criminal investigation and trial and with his life. The result is surprising but it also felt just about right.

New York Review of Books should be congratulated for bringing Simenon's classic `romans durs' back into print. The paperback quality is excellent and each novel in the series is introduced by a writer of note. In this instance the marvelous P.D. James writes a brief but powerful introduction. I recommend all of Simenon's books and Strangers in the House is no exception. L. Fleisig
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the defence March 9 2009
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The New York Review of Books is reissuing the "romans durs" of Georges Simenon -- his non-Maigret novels where the emphasis is more on psychology than on detection. Of the three that I have read so far -- including the magnificent TROPIC MOON -- this is the most like his detective novels. There is a crime, a mystery, and a court case, and the book ends when the true culprit is discovered. Or almost ends -- for the main focus is not on the solution of the crime, but the effect that his involvement in the case has on the defence attorney, Hector Loursat.

Maître Loursat is not an attractive figure when we first meet him. A middle-aged bear of a man, he had been abandoned by his wife many years before. Now, drinking several bottles of Burgundy a day, he lives in two rooms of a big rambling house, accompanied only by a surly cook, a shifting procession of housemaids, and his almost-adult daughter Nicole, whom he sees only at silent mealtimes. He is quite unaware that a group of Nicole's friends have been occupying the house at night -- until he is disturbed by a gunshot and finds a dying stranger in one of the beds. The events that follow shake him out of his self-pity, and he eventually finds himself defending Nicole's lover in court. Loursat will be changed by the experience -- perhaps not much, but still significantly -- and this change is the real subject of the novel.

Simenon is superb as ever in describing the small provincial town. For instance: "Hardly a window that was not shuttered. The steps of the rare passerby in the dismal streets sounded furtive, almost embarrassed." Behind those shuttered windows, dinner parties are being held by the few privileged bourgeois families, all known to one another and often connected by marriage. Nicole's friends include some of the sons of these families, escaping boredom, and some lowlier individuals just seeking to be included. The class background, like the French legal system, may seem strange to American eyes, but it is an explosive mixture, leading to jealousy and ultimately to murder. And to the rebirth of Hector Loursat.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars non-Maigret Simenon Feb. 8 2010
By vs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I never acquired a taste for the detective stories, whodunits or crime mysteries however high their quality might be, so I was surprised many years ago when I read Simenon's "The Venice Train" and "Prison". I used to think, as everybody else, that Simenon is all Maigret, the Great Detective.

Both "The Venice Train" and "Prison" though should be considered as part of French realist and existentialist tradition, the later in full swing in the middle of XX century. Both books are about people who struggle (mostly unsuccessfully) to find their true identity and raison d'être. I liked both books very much, so when I found that NYRB has published quite a few Simenon's "non-Maigret" books, I decided to give one of them a try.

To my today's taste the book is not as good as the previous two I read, though I read them many years ago, so I guess I need to read them again to be able to compare. Also I read them in Russian translation, and Russian translations to my experience are almost always better than English ones (be it from German or French). English speaking world never considered translation to be an art (see "Translators Struggle to Prove Their Academic Bona Fides" in "The Chronicle Of Higher Education").

"The Strangers in the House" is very much in vein of "realist/existentialist" Simenon. The story is about a sensitive and intelligent man, one Hector Loursat, a lawyer, who, after his wife left him for another man, has abandoned his practice, and withdrew from the society to live a life of solitude in his house with his daughter and a maid. Incessantly drinking wine, smoking, reading, losing shape both in the physical sense and in terms of his ability to communicate - this goes on for years and years. Extremely skeptical and/or cynical, unwilling to know anything about real world, one day he's being intruded upon by a murder committed in his house.

The chain of events follows which makes him to become involved in the life of his previously mostly ignored daughter and the life of here young lover, a local boy who becomes a prime suspect in this crime. Involved to such an extent that Loursat undertakes the defense of the boy and surely he wins - happy end very uncharacteristic of Simenon, but strangely believable & acceptable in this book. Small French town, inhabited by regular people, usual conflicts of the generations, mendacity and hate underneath niceties of provincial bourgeois life... this book one more time shows Simenon as a great realist writer.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Mystery and Character Study Aug. 7 2014
By Oddsfish - Published on Amazon.com
The Strangers in the House follows Loursat, a formerly respected lawyer from a prominent family who has retreated to his bedroom, his books, and his wine since the sudden departure of his ex-wife decades earlier. The man is now pitied or despised or unloved by virtually everyone, including by his daughter who lives in his decrepit old house but with whom he rarely speaks. One evening, Loursat’s decades long stupor is suddenly shaken when he hears a gunshot, finds a murdered man in his home, and discovers that his daughter has managed, to his amazement, to build a life for herself. Slowly, the events of that night begin to draw Loursat himself back toward life.

The Strangers in the House is the first novel I’ve read by Georges Simenon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, when I reach next January, it’s still the best novel that I’ve read for the year. Simenon’s style is direct and subtle. With the slightest of images, Simenon can open up a character’s inner world. I appreciated this plot, too. It’s a mystery, in a way, but it’s not any sort of procedural with the detective unturning and piecing together clues. Instead, it’s a psychological sort of mystery, with Loursat studying himself and the characters of those around him, to reach an understanding.

In the end, I found the novel to be pretty well entirely satisfying. It’s a subtle mystery story. But more than that, I found the novel to be a rich, realistic, and oddly hopeful study of character. I’m already hooked on reading Simenon, but I’m not sure that I’ll enjoy any of his novels more than I did this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great psychological thriller form Simenon April 13 2013
By Michael R. Stone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Smart writing, as usual, great human insights, as usual. I do have one question thought that I'm sure will be answered if I take the time to read the intro, namely, based on the copyright, I think this book was written during the German occupation--and I wonder if that pertains in any way to the story or if it was written, divorced form that moment.
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