The Watchmaker of Everton Summary
by Georges Simenon

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The Watchmaker of Everton Summary

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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The Watchmaker of Everton is a story about the failure of a family. Dave Galloway, the watchmaker of the title, leads an existence that is as regularized as the watches and clocks that he repairs. Every day of his life is marked by a routine that is kept so faithfully that he is hardly aware of it. For more than fifteen years, since his wife deserted him, he has cared for Ben, his son, now sixteen years old. Fulfilling the roles of both parents, Dave consciously seeks his son’s respect and love.

Late one Saturday evening, after he has had his usual night out with his friend, Musak, Dave discovers that Ben has disappeared with a suitcase and Dave’s car. The mother of Lillian Hawkins, Ben’s girlfriend, comes to Dave’s home and tells him, accusingly, that her daughter has stolen some money from home and gone away with Ben. Dave spends an anxious night, wondering what has happened. On Sunday morning, he is told by the police that Ben and Lillian have killed a salesman and stolen his Oldsmobile, having abandoned Dave’s vehicle along the road. Soon the news becomes public, and Dave awaits further information. Against his will he is drawn into the events. At last, word comes that Ben and Lillian have been captured in Indiana, where they went to be married. Musak helps Dave get a flight to Indianapolis, where Ben is being kept by police before being turned over to the New York authorities, but to Dave’s surprise and sorrow, Ben refuses to see him. A passenger on the same plane that returns Ben and Lillian to New York, Dave is left alone with his thoughts. Georges Simenon allows the reader to look into Dave’s mind: Dave’s anguished reflections are among the recurring flashbacks in the narrative. Collectively, these thoughts give information about the past, rounding out the present.

The preliminary hearing comes, and then the trial, and Dave still has not received his son’s acceptance. At the trial, the verdict is guilty, and the sentence is life imprisonment for Ben and Lillian. Sing Sing, where Ben is sent, is scarcely twenty-three miles from where Dave lives. The father is entitled to visit his son once a month, but the first visit is futile and unproductive, because Ben has not come to regard his father as one of his own kind. Dave is ready to take as much time as needed, however, to make Ben understand how alike they are, if only in their revolt; through revolts of one kind or another, especially ones totally unacceptable to society, they have both tried to set themselves free. Soon, it is discovered that Lillian is pregnant by Ben, and Dave dreams happily of the time when he can talk with his grandson and “reveal to him the secret in men.”