John Banville on Georges Simenon’s ‘Act of Passion’

John Banville includes Act of Passion by Georges Simenon in his selection of “novels of young love and the perilous flush of infatuation” in the “Five Best” column in The Wall Street Journal.

The narrator of Simenon’s novel, Charles Alavoine….is middle-aged and twice married, with a couple of young daughters, but has never known real love until he encounters a young woman, Martine, at the railway station..He takes Martine home, to work as a nurse in his surgery. Their affair continues and intensifies under the noses of Charles’s ice-queen wife, Armande, and his aged mother. Another novelist might have made out of this ménage à quatre an enjoyably naughty little fiction, but the people in Simenon’s romans durs (“hard novels”), as he called his non-Maigret novels, are driven and helpless, and Act of Passion ends, as it must, in tragedy. Has there ever been a more penetrating account of love’s destructive power?” — John Banville, The Wall Street Journal

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