George Simenon (1903-1989) authored nearly 500 novels during his literary career. Simeon's most successful work was that of French police detective Jules Maigret. He authored 78 books starring the character, all in French with English translations by publisher Penguin Books. Unfamiliar with his writing, I decided on a popular stand-alone novel entitled “The Watchmaker of Everton.” The book was originally published in 1954 (in France as “L'horloger d'Everton”), but later was re-titled “The Clockmaker.” A 1974 French film adaptation was directed by Bertrand Tavernier.
Simenon introduces us to the fragile character of Dave Galloway, a watch repairman in upper New York. His life is quiet and uncomplicated – working in his small shop downstairs and residing in a small apartment above it. Dave spends most of his time as a single father caring for his 16-yr old son Ben. On Friday nights, he plays backgammon with his elderly friend Musak.
One Friday evening, Dave returns from Musak's house to find that Ben has left. After examining the apartment, Dave learns that Ben took his personal belongings, a suitcase, and Dave's car. Fearing that Ben is headed for trouble, Dave's passive behavior is to simply wait for news of Ben's whereabouts. When Dave talks with a nearby neighbor, he learns that a teen love interest also ran away with Ben.
The middle of the narrative focuses on recollections about Dave and Ben's childhood and the abandonment by Dave's wife when Ben was just six-months old. After these recollections, Dave is notified by police that Ben is a prime suspect in a murder and carjacking. Is Ben innocent? Why did he leave his father? These are some of the plot points addressed and resolved in the novel's last 40-pages.
While Simenon is a good enough writer, “The Clockmaker” has no plot development. There's nothing here resembling a well planned story. It's just simply a character study without a coherent storyline. A father waiting on his delinquent son to be located, arrested and placed on trial is the shallow depth Simenon was willing to wade? There's one addition here regarding Simenon's father and grandfather, but it isn't as engaging as the author predicted.
Perhaps Simenon's other work is something riveting and definitive. However, “The Clockmaker” is not. Buyer beware.
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