Alan's Reviews > Dirty Snow

Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon
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's review
Dec 17, 10

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels, read-in-2010
Recommended to Alan by: notgettingenough
Read from November 19 to December 16, 2010

** spoiler alert ** chilled me to the bone. It's amazing that the book I read before this (Main Street) was published in the same century, in fact only 20 odd years apart, for they are so entirely different. Main Street was about the possible effects, or the difficulties of 'civilising' a 'backwoods' community, charming and sad at the same time, the (First World) war a distant backdrop. Although beneath the surface racism lurks, everyone is moral, more or less as they see it. Here the (2nd world) war is very present - we are in occupied France - and everyone's life has been degraded, and morals are luxuries. The hero, Frank, is a nihilistic teenager who decides - on the first page - to kill someone, to see what it would be like. He lives with his mother, (but was brought up by a foster mother) who is a kind of whorehouse madam, dealing with the occupiers. Frank will sleep with the girls that come and go, but has an obsession with the father and daughter who live across the hall, an obsession he doesn't quite understand, and he allows the daughter, Sissy, who 'loves' him to think that he might be her boyfriend, taking her to the pictures etc, flashing the money and 'green card' that he has obtained from robbery, violence and intimidation. Halfway through he is jailed and the novel turns to a cat-and-mouse police procedural that is told entirely from Frank's p.o.v. and is excellent about the sensations of prison, the food, the view from his cell, his growing beard and the way he sleeps, sniffing his underarm to tell he's still him. Fucking brilliant stuff. Especially the way his mind works, his weird sense, not of 'honour' but of not giving anything away, of being 'hard'. The prison stuff reminded me a little of 'Hard rain Falling' although they are otherwise very different.

I'm at work and wasn't going to write this review until later when I can get some quotes together, but I just finished it on the train this morning and had to write something down about how the book had got straight into me like some mainlined drug. I will add, possibly change this review later..


I'm just repeating myself here, but let's face it, this is what i really like in a book, although books can thrill in other ways - the moments that you feel you are there, you are him, when for instance caught up in the heightened minutiae of prison life and everything the taste of the 'soup', the sound of prisoners being marched off to be shot, the feel of his knocked out teeth, the position of a desk in the interrogation room, the cigars smoked by the interrogator, the woman he glimpses in an flat across from the jail (a converted school), his various obsessions and strategies for keeping sane, all that enters you through the force or the elegance of the writing.

Hats doffed on every page. Gripping, sad and stinging, eye-opening, and all rings true.

I've just done my top ten books of 2010, but will have to add this to make it my top 12.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Corey I liked this Simenon very much.

Alan yes my GR friends have all given it 4 or 5 stars, albeit with warnings of its nastiness. Not read any Simenon and not fancied any until this one..

Corey His many detective novels are hit and miss. He got sloppy at times, possibly because he wrote more novels than Joyce Carol Oates. But this is a first rate novel.

Jessica must read!

thanks Alan.

Alan Hi Jessica - read the new NYRB edition, apparently has a good afterword (so Michael Peck says). The one I read was a 1953 translation which had a few dodgy moments but still not enough to dim the power of the book.

Jessica right. thanks, Alan.

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