Georges Simenon: Maigret’s Christmas or The Girl who believed in Santa Claus aka Un Noël de Maigret (1951)

Nine stories present Simenon’s dauntless detective in a series of cases in which Maigret’s paternal side is activated and his detection efforts considerably aided by some observant and resourceful children.

I haven’t read any Simenon for a long time and when I was browsing amazon. fr. and discovered Un Noël de Maigret I thought it might be fun to read it at this time of the year. I thought it would be a longer book or a collection of short stories but the book contained only a 100 page long novella. It has been taken out of a collection with the same title and reissued on its own. Maybe it was the best and longest story in the original book. The English version Maigret’s Christmas contains still all nine stories, one of which is The Girl who believed in Santa Claus, the story that I have read. So, if you are in the mood for a lot of Christmas themed Maigret, you will have to get the English version.

The story has very melancholic undertones. It is easily summarized in a few sentences. On Christmas day two neighbours of Maigret come to visit to tell him that the little step-daughter of one of the two women pretends that Santa Claus has visited her in her bedroom at night. He offered her a big doll and tried to remove some floorboards in order to access the apartment below. The step-mother, a cold and distant woman, says she doesn’t believe the little girl, she says, she thinks she made everything up. The second woman, a spinster with a crush on Maigret, has a keen interest in the little girl and forced the step-mother to come along and tell Maigret all about the odd story the child is telling.

The story behind the Santa Claus and the solving of the mystery is not that gripping. The charm of this book lies in the person of Maigret and his psychological analysis. Maigret treats people with amazing respect, he is truly non-judgemental. The book is also infused with his and his wifes sadness about their childlessness. Christmas, being the family holiday it is, reminds them of their fate in a painful way.

Simenon excels in descriptions and psychological analysis. I could compare him to some other crime authors but that wouldn’t do him any justice. He wrote before Rendell, Mankell and all the others. He is very subtle, very poignant. This is not one of his great works but it is well done and his craftmanship can be perceived in every sentence. There is no superfluous word in this book, it’s soothingly unadorned.

I have read a few non Maigret books that I enjoyed a lot (Three Bedrooms in Manhattan aka Trois chambres à Manhattan is wonderful)  but I am not too familiar with his Maigret books.

Who has read any? Which did you like? Or do you prefer those without the inspector?

19 thoughts on “Georges Simenon: Maigret’s Christmas or The Girl who believed in Santa Claus aka Un Noël de Maigret (1951)

  1. Hello Caroline: I’ve been slowly collecting Simenon novels–many are sadly out of print in English or expensive if you can manage to find a used copy. I do have this Maigret Christmas one, but haven’t got to it yet.

    Three Crimes is autobiography disguised as fiction. It gave me tremendous insight into Simenon. That’s one I’d recommend along with The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, Tropic Moon, Monsieur Monde Vanishes. I could go on….

    • Thanks for visiting and for the recommendations. I will look them up. As I read hardly any translations it should be easy. The French titles are almost all available. If ever come upon some English ones I will let you know.

  2. Guy, what you just said reminds me of Anne Perry : she murdered someone before starting to write crime fiction books.

    I should read Three Crimes, it’s intriguing. I have bought the first Maigret recently. If I am to read this, I want to follow the sequence of the books.

    • I ordered it today and am really interested. I didn’t know the background, neither did I know about Anne Perry murdering someone.
      This reminds me of Capote’s In Cold Blood. I only saw the movie. I haven’t read many of Anne Perry’s books. Mostly historical fiction, right? Maybe she needed this to create more distance.
      I am defintely impressed with Simenon’s style and his psychological insight. I was at one point not too sure abou the dialogues. The book is very heavy on dialogue. Is that always the case?

      • Simenon was ruined for me after I studied Le Chien jaune in collège. I’ve never touched any of his books since.Plus, in my head, Maigret is linked to that sort of old fashioned TV programs, like Navarro. The things parents watch.
        But I trust Guy’s literary tastes, so I had planned to try again.

        • I think he mostly reads non Maigret ones. Maigret is a bit oldfashioned. He sits in the livingroom smoking his pipe ponderin while his wife is busy cooking. School almost ruined Balzac for, I know what you mean. We had to read La fille aux yeux d’or and I hated it. Later he became one of my favourite writers.

          • Well I’ll see if he’s oldfashioned in a touching or infuriating manner.

            Don’t tell me. Sitting in a classroom and talking about Le Père Goriot or La Peau de Chagrin. Dreadful. It took me years to read Balzac again too, to discover how great and easy to read a writer he is.
            And I’m not even talking about Corneille and Racine. (always together like Tic et Tac in cartoons) Nothing can be done for this, even watching the plays in a theatre.

            • I would say he is a tad too oldfashioned but I love how he is non-judgmental.
              Madame Bovary… That took me years as well. I think we suffered through Molière not Corneille. At least we didn’t have to learn them all by heart. My father can still quote Le corbeau et le renard and Victor Hugo’s poems… I also read La vie devant soi at school but with a very young and enthusiastic teacher… Like our English teacher. He was barely 25. We read Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and Vonnegut.

              • Lucky you, no Corneille or Racine for you. I studied Le Cid, Horace and Bérénice the same year. Molière is too good to be ruined by any teacher.
                I can still quote Le Corbeau et le Renard too, you know. My daughter is studying Le Rat de ville et le Rat des champs.

  3. I like reading your conversation with bookaroundthecorner 🙂

    Anyway, about the book…too bad it doesn’t intrigue me since you said that the solving of the mystery is not gripping. for me, that part of a mystery book is the most important part.

  4. I’ve only read a couple of Simenon’s books, and like so many other authors I always mean to read more….but there are always too many books to choose from. I like his pared down style and his sympathetic treatment (for lack of a better way to describe it) of the criminals in his stories–Maigret seems so laid back–drinking pernod in bars. You’re right the mystery doesn’t seem exactly the most important aspect of the story. I also read Red Lights, a non-Maigret novel set here in the US, which I thought very well done.

  5. I can’t believe it, but I don’t think I have EVER read a Maigret novel – how about that? An omission I should rectify in 2011. Have you ever ready anything by Boileau-Narcejac? Their Sueurs froides was the basis for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and everything I’ve read from them has been great – tricky, compelling and clever.

    • I think you are in good company. Many people prefer Simenon’s books withouth Maigret. I think I can see where they are coming from… I did review Boileau-Narcejac’s Celle qui n’était plus in October, I guess… I didn’t read Sueurs froides yet but I found them very atmospheric, yes compeling and tricky, as you say. Much more roman noir… Simenon without Maigret is rather a Belgian Ruth Rendell.

  6. Pingback: Georges Simenon: Maigret et les Vieillards aka Maigret in Society (1960) « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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