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The Islanders by Pascal Garnier

The Islanders

by Pascal Garnier

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An atmospheric tale set in Versailles around Christmas.
A dinner party is held, but the days after bring mystery and death.
A bleak story, but one that didn't hold my interest.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Gallic Books via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review. ( )
  Welsh_eileen2 | Jan 23, 2016 |
I didn't think it was possible to be disappointed by one of Pascal Garnier's little noir gems, but The Islanders did not live up to the high expectations generated by Moon in a Dead Eye and The A26. This is not to say that The Islanders is a bad book. It is, in fact, a fun, dark Christmas read.

Strangely, although The Islanders is my least favorite Garnier book thus far, it hews most closely to such classic noir hallmarks as a fascination with the grotesque, anxieties about masculinity, and doomed characters who, to quote Otto Penzler, "are caught in the inescapable prisons of their own construction." Every action taken by the blind, obese, and malignant Rodolphe; his alienated sister Jeanne; and the enervated Olivier leads to their inevitable downward spiral. What bothered me was the close resemblance of Olivier's alcoholic madness to that so chillingly documented in the underappreciated 2006 film Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. Having seen that movie, I was not as disturbed by Garnier's verbal depiction of the ant infestation and the sealing of the apartment as he probably intended the reader to be.

Nevertheless, those who have listened to one too many renditions of "Jingle Bells" will find The Islanders a welcome respite; just be sure to bring the bourbon but leave the eggnog behind.

I received a free copy of The Islanders through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  BrandieC | Dec 17, 2015 |

It's a few days before Christmas in Versailles. Olivier has come to bury his mother, but the impending holidays and icy conditions have delayed the funeral.

While trapped in limbo at his mother's flat, a chance encounter brings Olivier back in touch with childhood friend Jeanne and her blind brother, Rodolphe.

Rodolphe suggests they have dinner together, along with a homeless man he's taken in. As the wine flows, dark secrets are spilled, and there's more than just hangovers to deal with the next morning...
My take......

I read two books by French authors last year; Loser’s Corner by Antonin Varenne and another Pascal Garnier offering from Gallic Books – The Front Seat Passenger. Both were 5 star reads, so what odds the third book from France blowing me away? IT DID!

The Front Seat Passenger (one of my 2014 picks of the year) review is here.

Short, dark and disturbing …. at times I felt like I was a witness to an impending car crash, but was unable to look away. It’s hard to turn the pages when you’re peering through fingertips that are half-covering your eyes!

We meet Olivier in the aftermath of his mother’s death. Olivier is a recovering alcoholic. Crossing paths with childhood friend, Jeanne who lives in the same building as his mother, soon sees Olivier with his head back in the bottle.

A 20 year-old secret: a blind, controlling and jealous brother; a nosey, interfering neighbour, a tramp….plenty of alcohol and plenty of time in Jeanne’s company, with the manipulative Rodolphe seething in the background and you sense we may not have a happy ending. Garnier doesn’t disappoint.

I’m loathe to reveal too much of the narrative, I’ll leave well alone – offering a few snippets that caught my eye…….

Olivier on the train journey…..

A girl tottered down the aisle. Nice bum, nice shaved head, as if she knew she was pretty enough to get away with making herself ugly.

Jeanne reflective…..

The first black doll went on sale when she was twelve. She was sorry not to have had one, but it was too late by then. That was the age she became old overnight. One morning she got up and her toys no longer spoke to her. She touched them, turned them over in her hands as if seeing them for the first time, and began to cry. Her childhood had run away during the night.

Our homeless dude…..

Roland thought the frescos and sculptures representing hell were a hundred times more appealing than the pale, cold depictions of heaven.

Great story - dark and memorable, populated with troubled, destructive characters, presented at a perfect length with a smooth narrative courtesy of a superb translation from Emily Boyce.

Another compelling 5 star French read!

Pascal Garnier sadly died in 2010. Gallic books are keeping his memory alive with their English translations of his compelling books – 6 so far with another due out this year.

The Panda Theory (2012)
How's the Pain? (2012)
The A26 (2013)
Moon in a Dead Eye (2013)
The Front Seat Passenger (2014)
The Islanders (2014)
Boxes (2015)

Thanks to Gallic books for my copy of The Islanders.
Their website is here. http://gallicbooks.com/

http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02... ( )
  col2910 | Feb 17, 2015 |
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