He had pictured them in their gloomy but well-kept homes, with family photographs on the walls and mantelpieces .... Only a short while ago, the idea that such women might have secret lives of their own would have seemed to him ridiculous and shocking. Indeed, he had assumed at their age they had done with lovemaking.
I look at this book and wonder how there was ever a time when a cover such as this would be thought the best way to attract the interest of a buying public. It was published by Penguin in 1967, and though I can think of many things from the era which remain appealing (the music of Brasil '66, the film Bullitt), I don't generally consider the covers of the green Penguins published around this time to be among them. The odd thing with this one is that it doesn't even have the redeeming attribute of bearing any relevance to the story. I wonder sometimes if these Penguins may prove to be the most difficult to track down, even though they are not particularly rare, as there seems little to encourage a charity shop worker to believe that this is a book worth placing on a shelf. At least when you find these late '60s green Penguins they are always inexpensive.
This is a story of suspicion and uncertainty. A man closely watches his wife and wonders what she is thinking, and what she may be planning, reflecting obsessively on the possibility that her every trivial action may conceal the most sinister of intentions. And once this idea has taken hold there is no escaping it. Etienne is bedridden with the 'flu, or perhaps it is only a heavy cold, but it gives him the entire day to dwell on his suspicions. His doubts begin to feed upon themselves.
It is the unusual arrangements of their home and their life which allows Etienne to keep his wife Louise under such close observation. They live in a few small rooms on the first floor of an apartment building near Pigalle in Paris, while she spends her days working below in her stationery business on the ground floor. In her parents' day an iron staircase had been fitted to link the bedroom with the shop, and this allows Etienne to lie upstairs during his illness, aware of every word she says, reconstructing her movements in his mind, and looking for the faintest hint that all is not as it seems.