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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Engagement
(Mr Hire's Engagement)

Georges Simenon

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Engagement

Title: The Engagement
Author: Georges Simenon
Genre: Novel
Written: 1933 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 135 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Engagement - US
Mr Hire's Engagement - UK
The Engagement - Canada
Les fiançailles de M. Hire - Canada
The Engagement - India
Les fiançailles de M. Hire - France
Die Verlobung des Monsieur Hire - Deutschland
  • French title: Les fiançailles de Monsieur Hire
  • Translated by Anna Moschovakis
  • US title: The Engagement (NYRB)
  • UK title: Mr Hire's Engagement (Penguin Classics)
  • Previously translated as Monsieur Hire's Engagement (1956)
  • With an Afterword by John Gray
  • Les fiançailles de Monsieur Hire was made into the film Monsieur Hire in 1989, directed by Patrice Leconte and starring Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well drawn-out story of a man suspected of murder

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 14/12/2009 Boyd Tonkin
The Nation . 7/5/2007 Marco Roth

  From the Reviews:
  • "These are novels of eye-opening, spine-tingling control and intensity." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "Simenon neophytes ought to read it first. (...) The Engagement captures the nightmare sense that modern urban life will abolish privacy for good, the crowd will take over and its paranoid gaze will never forgive those who are unable to meet its eyes -- that is to say, anyone and everyone outside it. (...) The Engagement should be required reading for every American intelligence officer who relies on "informers" to pick out suspected terrorists." - Marco Roth, The Nation

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Engagement shifts back and forth between constant, often frenetic motion and endless waiting; there is little calm here, only agitation, without letting up.
       The central figure is Mr. Hire -- though the family name used to be Hirovitsch, yet another of the many strikes against him -- a loner who earns his living with "a dirty bit of legal swindling", a postal scam promising respondents they can earn easy money with little effort. The concierge in the building where he lives is convinced that he is guilty of the recent murder of a young woman, and the police think she might be right. They put considerable man-hours into watching and trailing him, and slowly a noose draws tighter around Hire's neck.
       Hire soon notices the attention being paid to him, but Simenon still puts him through his various paces, a character-portrait slowly emerging as we follow his commute, his business, and his various other stations. Hire is a seedy, unpleasant sort of man -- a peeping tom, for one, who sits and gazes at a woman across the way through his window at night. But there are also surprising sides to him: he's an excellent bowler, and those who know him only from his successes at the game are convinced he is actually a policeman.
       Simenon does a masterful job of slowly fleshing out the picture of this doughy man, beginning with the physical:

He was flabby. His volume was no greater than that of any ordinary man, but one sensed in him neither flesh nor bone, nothing but soft, flaccid matter, so soft and so flaccid that his movements were hard to make out.
       Indeed, he proves in every respect rather elusive -- a man it's hard to figure out (and, as the police find, hard to get a grip on, too).
       Hire's walk is distinctive, too, all "waddling, bouncing, chest stuck out", though:
He didn't do it on purpose. he was just built like that. Above his quick little legs, his round body seemed to bounce along of its own accord.
       Alice, the woman he has his eye on, uses Hire, as it's her boyfriend (as Hire also knows) who is the actual murderer -- and Hire is besotted enough to believe she might really be interested in him, really might consider herself engaged to him. He plans to escape from the tightening noose, but it's not easy for him -- and Simenon does a great job of describing this increasingly desperate cat-and-mouse game.
       It's a novel of constantly heightened tension and worry, with even incidental characters adding to the increasingly oppressive atmosphere, as when the concierge's little daughter becomes ill.
     He wasn't hungry, wasn't thirsty. He just wanted to hold on to his anticipation, not to let this heat, this gust that was propelling him die down.
       But Hire is always an isolated island. If anything he feels and is treated like a pinball in a machine, caroming all about, literally constantly bumping into people, and finding himself buffeted about every which way.
       The noose continues to tighten, culminating in a final confrontation, as it must, yet even at end the sorry figure remains just out of grasp.
       A well-drawn but very restless psychological portrait and thriller, and appropriately creepy.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 August 2010

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The Engagement (Mr Hire's Engagement): Reviews: Monsieur Hire - the film: Georges Simenon: Other books by Georges Simenon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Belgian author Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote hundreds of books, and is especially famous for his detective-fiction.

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