The Panda Theory Paperback – Feb 4 2014
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'Grimly humorous and tremendously dark - Superb.' Figaro Litteraire 'Pascal Garnier is not just an accomplished stylist but also an exceptional storyteller - The Panda Theory is both dazzlingly humane and heartbreakingly lucid.' Lire
About the Author
Pascal Garnier is a leading figure in contemporary
French literature, in the tradition of Georges
Simenon. He lived in a small village in the Ardèche
devoting himself to writing and painting. Garnier
died in March 2010.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Happiness is a calamity you can never recover from. As soon as you catch a glimpse of it, the door slams shut and you spend the rest of your life bitterly regretting what is no more."
Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the experiences in Gabriel's life which have shaped this philosophy; those flashbacks come more quickly the closer we come to the book's classic noir ending, building the tension until the past and present collide in a sudden burst of violence.
At times, Gabriel's thoughts sound like those of an amoral psychopath: "It was a day to kill someone for no reason"; he cannot "feel the difference between good and evil." However, he also believes that he performs a "service," whether cooking meals for a bistro owner whose wife is in a coma, paying the hotel bill of an abandoned girlfriend, or offering companionship to a lonely hotel receptionist, and it is this desire to be of service which is the key to Gabriel's character and ultimately horrific actions.
The Panda Theory rewards reflection, leading me to raise my rating from 3.5 to 4 stars after writing this review. I recommend this book, and this author, to those who want more from their crime fiction than entertainment or fleeting thrills.
I received a free copy of The Panda Theory through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
In this new town he finds himself in, he quickly makes friends. The receptionist at the hotel is lonely and stuck in a dead-end job. The owner of the café is facing a difficult life with his wife getting ill and unable to care for their children. A young couple is in love but can't seem to make things work. Each turns to Gabriel for help and emotional support.
But Gabriel has secrets. Terrible secrets from his past that slowly evolve. When they do, each person will realize they never knew Gabriel at all.
Pascal Garnier is a well-known French writer. He is known for his noir style, and is often compared to Georges Simeon. Readers will find his style slyly revealing and a bit dark. He slowly peels back the layers of an individual's character and shows that no one is easily known. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.
The novel opens as Gabriel arrives in a small Breton town that always has a whiff of manure about it. He soon becomes involved with José, a bistro owner, and Madeleine, the receptionist at the hotel where he stays. Later he meets a couple, Marco and Rita, who are down on their luck. To each of them he brings some joy. José's wife is very ill and Gabriel helps him and his two children cope as news of her condition worsens. Madeleine is lonely and he brings her some sense of love and a vision of an alternative to her current job. Initially his assistance to Marco and Rita is purely monetary, but later he helps them realise they love each other, despite all the suffering and ugliness that their love has to endure.
Gabriel knows what it is to have felt happiness in life, and how transient it is. Though he brings some happiness to those around him, he knows this will be fleeting and that they should not become attached to it.
At one point, Gabriel wins a giant toy panda in a shooting gallery at a fun fair. The panda sits in José's bistro, its arms always outstretched and welcoming, accepting everything that goes on around it without judgement. It reflects Gabriel's own view that life is without morals or purpose, so we just have to accept good and evil and follow them to their logical conclusions.
Although Gabriel carries the name of an angel, an old man in town tells him that these days even angels are not to be trusted. They all look like haunted junkies now.
One night, Gabriel, José, Madeleine and Rita spend the night together eating, drinking and dancing. Though they are all suffering, for a short time they seem like a family together. As dawn breaks and José heads home, the window is thrown open and the happy dream of the night flies away. There cannot be, and will not be, any long term happiness.
Gabriel carries his beliefs to their logical conclusion. He is the messenger of the mindless universe. But it is love for Madeleine that almost changes the course of his life. Will it be enough to put pay to his wandering and restore meaning and morality back into his existence?
Pascal Garnier, who died in 2010, has written a bleak but compelling novel that examines a life where all that is precious and hopeful has been torn away. It is a confronting and sobering exposition that forces us to consider how we would react in the same circumstances. In truth, can any of us really know?
It feels that certain events are happening, and then one more event happens and it ends.
You don't feel any longing for knowing the characters, you don't feel like knowing more of Gabriel and what all he may have suffered in his personal life. In fact you feel like not knowing Gabriel at all.
Pascal has written many novels and has been praised many a times, but this one does not make it. This was my first Pascal novel, and I wonder which one to read to get a a feel of his better works.