The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken (translators)
|The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken (translators)|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The latest piece from the consummate oeuvre that is the laboratoire Garnier mixes two distinct narratives, but to what end?|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 144||Date: September 2016|
|Publisher: Gallic Books|
Meet Louis. He's a middle-aged chap, who is going nowhere, until he decides to stifle the life out of his mother. Well, she's not going anywhere either, and it only hastens her demise and boosts his inheritance when he needs to pay back a large debt. And Louis can only see it as a good thing that he is now offing elderly people to boost the monetary standing of his friends, as an unannounced service. Now meet out narrator, a thriller writer, who's inventing Louis, struggling with poorly-working typewriters in a rental cottage, and having what counts as quite the most inappropriate relationship… You'll jump from one narrative to the other in these pages, but be gripping on to everything to find the reason behind the connection.
Or at least that is the intent. For me, I found it a little bit revelatory, not about one of my favourite authors, but me, in that I wanted my cake and to eat it. I wanted the mystery of both strands – here a rampant serial killer with no qualms, a self-defined purpose and no problem with the authorities, there an innocent-seeming author, avoiding his partner's holiday plans, in fact avoiding conversation if he can, and the all-important connections between them. At the same time I both wanted them to be fully developed individual stories, and I wanted the link to be the thrust of the book.
And that link, therefore that thrust, took some time coming. The problems can be evident – namely, that however hard Garnier tries to break the form of the thriller by having a novel within a novel, both halves dripping in both blood and innocence, one half is definitely more disposable. Louis, while in a Garnier book, is created by a writer within a Garnier book, and that can only mean he's a little harder to care for, even if it's a fun Highsmith/Chabrol-styled thing to have a routine bloke going round killing the parents of his peers because the parents have stopped being valid and those peers deserve more than they have. You alternate between the two stories – Louis and his creator divide into separate chapters after a couple of scene-setters – and while I guess our two translators took care to stick to one half of the book each, the sections are too similar with too similar a style, and with equally unattributed dialogue et al failing to mark them out; even if Louis is past tense third person and the author present tense first person it can still be the font change that distinguishes the two pieces.
What's more, for being daring inasmuch as it leaves the Simenon template behind, this Garnier book suffers by, well, not reading as a Garnier book – and not quite as two Garnier short stories. While the typical French drinks are name-checked, the milieu he normally gives us is absent, and it is for his examinations of closed, ad hoc communities and what they say about the human lot that I turn to him. This, from a great thriller writer, to be featuring a thriller writer (and juvenilia writer, much as Garnier himself was) was just a little too precious. And for that connection between the halves? It smacked to me of a staple bang in the middle of a sheet of A4 – too small and insubstantial, hammering a connect between the two but leaving so much to just fly apart, when any other binding would have held the two together more firmly.
This isn't an abject failure – it bounds with ideas and blackness and Louis's nonchalance is always pleasant, but against the rest of M. Garnier's oeuvre, it does stand as a widely missed opportunity.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
You might also appreciate Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator).
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