Sunday, December 31, 2006

30. Red Lights by Simenon

Red Lights cover picture
As Buzby, who lent me this book, predicted, I read it in one day. It's almost a novella, but I see that a lot of Simenon's books were short like that. Makes me feel guiltier for not reading him in french. Red Lights takes place in Long Island on the eve of a long weekend. A bickering husband and wife drive out to pick up their daughter from camp. The husband keeps sneaking drinks, first at home and then at rest-stops. The tension in the car explodes into a marital spat and the wife walks out of the car. The man continues on his drunk and bad things happen.

I was expecting a more drawn out story, more of an adventure and perhaps some mystery. But the events are actually revealed and wrapped up quite quickly. I realize looking back that the story climaxes with the husband's bender. While I was reading it, I was thinking that was the build-up, so I was off the rhythm a bit and it seemed to end abruptly.

Despite my expectations, it was a great read. Simenon captures the combination of hospitality and guardedness of 1950s northeastern America. The sense of forward motion, of darkness, of highways full of closed cars all going in the same direction is palpable. Finally, he digs right into the flawed heart of a weak man and it is quite painful.

Judging from Red Lights, Simenon is a great writer and I will definitely be reading more of his books.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, too, am just starting to explore Simenon and find his work fascinating. There are many parallels to Patricia Highsmith in the minute psychological details.