Odile has always been different and stand-offish, with a quicksilver temperament. Just 18 years old, she has left school and lives with her family in Lausanne, aimlessly drifting through life. Her mother is rather severe, hosting bridge parties with an ever-present glass of whiskey in hand and her father is distant, spending his days in his study writing and drinking wine. She does have a soft spot for her older brother, Bob, so when she decides to go to Paris and commit suicide she posts him a letter of explanation. Bob makes preparations to leave for the City of Light and discovers that a bottle of sleeping pills and his father’s old revolver are missing.
The first half of the book has Bob frantically searching hotels and boites for his sister, with the blessing and financial support of his father. More than once he just misses connecting with her and he is afraid that he is running out of time. Then the book switches to Odile’s travails. She drifts from boite to boite and changes hotels. At last she takes some pills and slashes a wrist while lying in a warm bath. Her neighbor, a young medical assistant rushes to her aid. By the time she is reunited with her brother, she has regained a desire to live, falling in love with her savior in the process.
While Odile herself wasn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked and the ending seemed a bit facile, I can’t judge this book too harshly, knowing what I know about Simenon’s life and that of his daughter Marie-Jo (short for Marie-Georges). Several years after this book was published, Marie-Jo did take her own life, at the age of 25.