La veuve Couderc
La Veuve Couderc is a novel by Belgian writer Georges Simenon. It was first published in 1942. The novel was published at around the same time as Camus’ The Stranger. Both novels contain a similar main character and themes, and Simenon was upset that Camus’ work went on to greater acclaim.
In 1934, in a little village on a canal in Burgundy, a laconic young stranger called Jean is walking along the road when an older woman in black gets off a bus with a heavy load. He helps her carry it to her farm, where she offers him work and a room. He accepts, and soon she is in his bed. She is the widow Couderc, running the farm single-handed with her infirm father-in-law. Across the canal live her sister-in-law and ineffectual husband, who are trying to evict the widow and gain the property. They have a 16-year-old daughter, Félicie, who has already managed to have a baby, father uncertain.
Jean enjoys helping on the farm, but will reveal little of his past. His father was rich, he says, and he wanted to become a doctor but killed a man, ending up in jail from which he has escaped. The widow accepts his story, but her trust is strained when he can’t resist sleeping with the alluring Félicie as well. The situation is taken out of her hands when her sister-in-law denounces Jean to the police, who surround the farm at dawn. When Jean fires on them, both he and the widow are killed in the ensuing fusillade.