Title: Three Bedrooms In Manhattan (original title: Trois chambres à Manhattan)
Writer: Georges Simenon (translated by Marc Romano and Lawrence G, Blochman
Publishing House: Penguin Classics
Date of Publication: July 30th 2020 (first published 1946)
Rating: 5 stars
‘’It wasn’t on purpose that he sat down beside the woman. He realized it only when the white-coated black waiter was standing in front of him, impatient for his order.
The place smelled of fairgrounds, of lazy crowds, of nights when you stayed out because you couldn’t go to bed, and it smelled like New York, of its calm and brutal indifference.’’
Two strangers, a struggling French actor and a mysterious socialite, meet in a downtown diner in Greenwich Village, in Manhattan, as night turns into day. They decide to wander the streets of New York, and soon become lovers. Through the course of a few months, New York becomes the background of a stormy and fragile relationship between two people who must leave their wounds behind in order not to fall apart.
‘’They were hardly man and woman. They were two beings who needed each other.’’
Georges Simenon, one of the most important writers of the 20th century, wrote Three Bedrooms In Manhattan, inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, a work that left its mark in American Realism. It is impossible to stay apathetic in front of Harper’s masterpiece -and this is true for the vast majority of his work – your mind immediately starts working, unconsciously writing a story. Who are these people? Why are they alone? Why are they dining in such a late hour? What is going on between them?
There is a dark, dreamy quality in Hopper’s Nighthawks and the same feeling and atmosphere permeate Simenon’s novel. In sparse, unadorned and flowing writing, we witness the story though Francois’s eyes and enter his rather troubled mind. Wounded by betrayal, he is afraid to accept Kay’s influence on him, to the point of obsession and momentary madness, while Kay’s sensitivity, fragility and flightiness provide the unreliable point of focus that makes us wonder on the evolution of the couple’s sentimental Odyssey in the city that never sleeps. And New York is there to remind them of their past choices and mistakes and to shelter a love that was born in its nightly streets, in an empty diner.
‘’She stumbled a few times because of her high heels. After about a hundred yards, she took his arms, and it seemed like the two of them had been walking the streets of New York at five in the morning, from the beginning of time.’’
Many thanks to Penguin Classics and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.