Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator)
|Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator)|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: An isolated widow is thrust into a dark place, when she was expecting beige, if not lightness itself. This author never provides us with anything colourless, and doesn't fail us here.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: April 2016|
|Publisher: Gallic Books|
Meet Pascal Garnier. Normally, in starting a review that way, I'm on about the main character of the book, but it could be said the biggest character of any Pascal Garnier book is Pascal Garnier, not that that's a flaw. Over a half-dozen titles I've come to know the pattern of his output, and it's fair to say this example fits it very well. Again, not a fault. His thrillers have a small cast list of characters, trapped somehow in a small community, cut off by weather, season or remoteness. Here we are with Eliette, and just a handful of others, and watching her as she celebrates the return of spring to her remote home, an ex-silk farm in southern France. All characters have a darkness about them, including Eliette – she had wanted to retire to the place with her loving, long-term husband, but he died of cancer months before retirement. And the final piece of the Garnier pattern is that that darkness, the black surrounding the night stars to use one of the more memorable lines here, is that things – said situation, other people, life itself – cause people to do some equally black and stupid acts…
But we're met with light and joy here, even if there's an awkwardness surrounding the woman's children turning up at Eliette's with their own broods for Whitsun (families are never completely nuclear in Garnier books, unless you refer to them being dangerously fissile). Eliette is taking stock, wondering what she is supposed to intend for herself in her isolated circumstances, with only two people as neighbours, a couple who have watched her and her family make ready the farm over decades of summer breaks. Luckily for her, a handsome and mysterious man turns up completely naturally, and she feels a stirring to match the spring time. Unfortunately for others, a death means the darkness of winter is only to the fore.
All told, however, I can't quite pin down why I didn't completely love this book, and that from a devoted Garnier reader. There has often been a sniff about him of his black comedy not quite working – I've enjoyed several of his taut, unflowery, bagginess-free novels for the situation they posit as well as the commentary they make on the blackness of (portions of) humanity, only to read around them and find they were supposed to be funny. I'm sure that's not the case here, although it has to be said that so many people do such stupid things in this instance that if you were to film it there would not be a straight face in the cinema. It's a bit OTT, and I am not convinced there is enough of a theme here, not quite the compelling and snappy statement regarding human nature, to let Garnier get away with the extreme.
That said, I've yet to meet a bad Garnier book. Once again he dresses his prose with no flourishes of style, favouring the blunt and matter-of-fact, but in a way that he does not dwell on evil actions or consequences and make the books hard to stomach, which they could well be given a different approach. This early work (his fourth of about sixteen adult novels, which he managed to fit in along with seven books of shorts and almost two score young readers, all in just 25 years of a truncated career) has all the galling inexorability of his regular works, which routinely defy the description 'regular'. Here you will not finish this without having met with at least one or two surprises, and the strongest, most pleasurable flavour in your mouth provided by the author's usual 'je ne sais quoi'.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers is definitely more how the British do this kind of thing.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon.com.
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