Author: Georges Simenon
If Francois Combe's life is anything, it's a study in loneliness and dissatisfaction. Having suffered the throes of a recent divorce, brought on when his wife fell for a younger man, Combe retreats from the world (and his public humiliation) into his Greenwich Village apartment. When Combe leaves his place, his movements seem purposeless, lacking specific direction or destination. A middle-aged man, Combe seems to be unemployed, without even a career to fall back on.
However, Combe does have an occupation. He's an actor, originally from France (a country he fled in the wake of his divorce and the ensuing publicity). However, talk of work or new parts is met with little enthusiasm on Combe's part. In fact, he seems to simply exist without expectation of either joy or tragedy.
This changes when Combe meets a mystery woman named Kay Miller in a Greenwich Village diner. Their chance meeting leads to an unusual relationship. One that jolts Combe out of his rut, at least.
The two strike up a relationship that appears to be driven as much by desperation as passion. They spend their first night walking the city's streets, leaning on each other like shipwreck survivors, and hitting the bars. They fall into bed at a cheap hotel, a sort of neutral ground, where they spend much of the next day. When they finally leave, they end up repeating the exercise again.
Combe's feelings about Kay are volatile and unpredictable. One minute, he can't bear the thought of being without her. The next, he's angry with her, convinced she's cheap and easy. He can barely stand the thought that she's had other lovers and wonders if she's thinking of them when they're together. One can only assume that the circumstances of his divorce are feeding this paranoia.
Kay's personae is harder to grasp. Although she starts off looking flighty and neurotic, these character traits are as seen through Combe's jaded perspective. And while aspects of her character appear to grow clearer as the story progresses, she's just mysterious enough to keep one guessing about her real agenda (if she has one). Although she claims to love Combe and seems honest about her past relationships, for various reasons her true intentions grow murkier as the story unfolds.
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