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Three Beds in Manhattan by Georges Simenon
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Three Beds in Manhattan (1946)

by Georges Simenon

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A very strange and uneven Simenon. At first, the premise is intriguing: a man, François Combe, leaves his flat due to the noise his neighbor and his neighbor’s odd guest make. How Simenon handles city life—and here, more especially, the pulse and feel of Manhattan—is very acute in the opening scenes: how through the thin walls one can “know” one’s neighbors, their inner psychologies, their demons, all without having met them in the flesh; how the city streets become a theatre on which an individual can enact and try to avoid his or her turmoil; how public spaces allow for the private to be dramatized rather than hidden from view.



The latter is the most interesting to me as far as how Simenon handles this: despite the title’s emphasis on interior, private scenes, it is the more public scenes depicting Combe’s increasingly intimate (and, in my reading, increasingly inorganic) relationship with Kay that makes this novel both Simenon and not-Simenon. While there is a stress on psychology, as David suggests, there is too much in the latter part of the novel which results in a very uneven pace, especially for such a short work. I also found the chamber drama and at times claustrophobic dialogue between Combe and Kay to be cliched, oftentimes reminding me of Godard’s films (e.g., Une femme est un femme, Masculin féminin) but without the certainty of Simenon playing with noir and American genres of pulp. Instead, it feels almost as if Simenon is embracing these rather than playing them off and against one another as he does so well at the start of Three Bedrooms... which ultimately sees the narrative fall quickly into disorder.



This is definitely a worthy read, but it also is in no way indicative of Simenon’s major themes or concerns in his more successful fiction. In many ways, this feels like an experiment that half works and half doesn’t: for a writer as prolific as Simenon, perhaps we should applaud him for that rather than begrudge it. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
A very strange and uneven Simenon. At first, the premise is intriguing: a man, François Combe, leaves his flat due to the noise his neighbor and his neighbor’s odd guest make. How Simenon handles city life—and here, more especially, the pulse and feel of Manhattan—is very acute in the opening scenes: how through the thin walls one can “know” one’s neighbors, their inner psychologies, their demons, all without having met them in the flesh; how the city streets become a theatre on which an individual can enact and try to avoid his or her turmoil; how public spaces allow for the private to be dramatized rather than hidden from view.



The latter is the most interesting to me as far as how Simenon handles this: despite the title’s emphasis on interior, private scenes, it is the more public scenes depicting Combe’s increasingly intimate (and, in my reading, increasingly inorganic) relationship with Kay that makes this novel both Simenon and not-Simenon. While there is a stress on psychology, as David suggests, there is too much in the latter part of the novel which results in a very uneven pace, especially for such a short work. I also found the chamber drama and at times claustrophobic dialogue between Combe and Kay to be cliched, oftentimes reminding me of Godard’s films (e.g., Une femme est un femme, Masculin féminin) but without the certainty of Simenon playing with noir and American genres of pulp. Instead, it feels almost as if Simenon is embracing these rather than playing them off and against one another as he does so well at the start of Three Bedrooms... which ultimately sees the narrative fall quickly into disorder.



This is definitely a worthy read, but it also is in no way indicative of Simenon’s major themes or concerns in his more successful fiction. In many ways, this feels like an experiment that half works and half doesn’t: for a writer as prolific as Simenon, perhaps we should applaud him for that rather than begrudge it. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Huis-clos sentimental magistral. Un des meilleurs "romans noirs" de Simenon. ( )
  OrsAntone | Mar 29, 2011 |
If Francois Combe's life is anything, it's a study in loneliness and dissatisfaction. Having suffered the throes of a recent divorce, brought on when his wife fell for a younger man, Combe retreats from the world (and his public humiliation) into his Greenwich Village apartment. When Combe leaves his place, his movements seem purposeless, lacking specific direction or destination. A middle-aged man, Combe seems to be unemployed, without even a career to fall back on.

However, Combe does have an occupation. He's an actor, originally from France (a country he fled in the wake of his divorce and the ensuing publicity). However, talk of work or new parts is met with little enthusiasm on Combe's part. In fact, he seems to simply exist without expectation of either joy or tragedy.

This changes when Combe meets a mystery woman named Kay Miller in a Greenwich Village diner. Their chance meeting leads to an unusual relationship. One that jolts Combe out of his rut, at least.

The two strike up a relationship that appears to be driven as much by desperation as passion. They spend their first night walking the city's streets, leaning on each other like shipwreck survivors, and hitting the bars. They fall into bed at a cheap hotel, a sort of neutral ground, where they spend much of the next day. When they finally leave, they end up repeating the exercise again.

Combe's feelings about Kay are volatile and unpredictable. One minute, he can't bear the thought of being without her. The next, he's angry with her, convinced she's cheap and easy. He can barely stand the thought that she's had other lovers and wonders if she's thinking of them when they're together. One can only assume that the circumstances of his divorce are feeding this paranoia.

Kay's personae is harder to grasp. Although she starts off looking flighty and neurotic, these character traits are as seen through Combe's jaded perspective. And while aspects of her character appear to grow clearer as the story progresses, she's just mysterious enough to keep one guessing about her real agenda (if she has one). Although she claims to love Combe and seems honest about her past relationships, for various reasons her true intentions grow murkier as the story unfolds.

To read the entire review, go to: http://modern-american-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review-of-three-bedrooms... ( )
  infogirl2k | Feb 20, 2010 |
I just didn't get it. I didn't like the protagonists, I didn't care if they stayed together or not, I just wanted Simenon to stop. A down-and-out actor meets a woman, smacks her around, drags her through the city, humiliates her about a past that has nothing to do with him and she loves him? For the love of paper, man, just stop already! Oy. ( )
  huntersun9 | Sep 15, 2008 |
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He woke up suddenly at 3:00 A.M., dead tired, got dressed, and almost went out without his tie, in slippers, coat collar turned up, like people who walk their dogs late at night or very early in the morning.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159017044X, Paperback)

An actor, recently divorced, at loose ends in New York; a woman, no less lonely, perhaps even more desperate than the man: they meet by chance in an all-night diner and are drawn to each other on the spot. Roaming the city streets, hitting its late-night dives, dropping another coin into yet another jukebox, these two lost souls struggle to understand what it is that has brought them, almost in spite of themselves, together. They are driven—from moment to moment, from bedroom to bedroom—to improvise the most unexpected of love stories, a tale of suspense where risk alone offers salvation.

Georges Simenon was the most popular and prolific of the twentieth century's great novelists. Three Bedrooms in Manhattan—closely based on the story of his own meeting with his second wife—is his most passionate and revealing work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:54 -0400)

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 159017044X, 1590175611

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