cover image The Truth about Bebe Donge

The Truth about Bebe Donge

Georges Simenon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-15-191319-0

First published in France in 1942 and anthologized in the U.S. in 1953, this novella appears here for the first time in book form, with the author's spare prose receiving an elegant translation. When wealthy merchant Francois Donge is poisoned with arsenic, police arrest his wife, Bebe. Throughout the ensuing investigation and trial, she keeps her composure and her own counsel while the other characters offer a Rashomon -like diversity of views about her. There are intimations of drug use and sexual ambiguity; Francois is revealed as a self-absorbed creep who treated his wife like a piece of furniture, engaged in repeated infidelities and neglected their child. Had the abused spouse reached the end of her tether? Did she fear that Francois's latest mistress would lure him away, depriving her of the marriage's only benefits--wealth and position? In the end, the only answer not provided is the one promised by the title: there is no ultimate truth about Bebe Donge. Vintage Simenon, tres gallique, a perfect treat of a summer read. ( June )