Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier

The joys of ageing…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

moon in a dead eyeWhen their city neighbourhood begins to change and all their elderly friends gradually retire to quieter places, or die, Odette and Martial decide it’s time to buy a little retirement home in a gated community. Odette is keen to move, Martial less so. The community is newly built and Odette and Martial are the first couple to move in. Early impressions are hampered by the constant rain while, until more people move in, the swimming pool and clubhouse remain closed. But there is a caretaker, though given his creepiness that’s a bit of a mixed blessing. However, things perk up a bit when another couple and then a single woman move in, and the clubhouse is finally opened complete with a social secretary to provide a bit of fun. Thrown together in this isolated place, all the residents quickly become friends. But then the gypsies arrive…

I’ve had a bit of a mixed journey with Pascal Garnier so far. I enjoyed Boxes, loved The A26, and sadly wasn’t very taken with this one at all. It follows the same kind of format as the others – set up the characters, put them in a slightly odd, isolated situation, then make some terrible things happen to them. The writing is as good as ever, the quirky characterisation is great and there’s the same vein of humour, growing increasingly blacker as the novella progresses. Perhaps I’ve just read them too closely together, but I felt this one was rather like painting by numbers.

The first bit of the book is great. The description of this couple trying to settle into their new lives rings very true. Martial in particular misses the busyness of his old home, where he knew everybody and only had to walk down the street to meet acquaintances. Now he finds it hard to find anything to fill his days. The story of their trip to the beach is a glorious piece of blackly comic writing – the wind at their back as they walk giving them a sensation of energy and vitality, till they have to turn and come back against the same wind whipping away their breath and leaving them shattered and exhausted. It’s a great picture of people trying to come to terms with the fact that ageing is taking its toll on what they’re physically able to do, and nicely satirical about all those pictures of happy, energetic retirees in the sunshine that populate brochures for these kinds of communities.

Unfortunately, when the horrors begin, they simply didn’t ring true for me. The actual events didn’t justify the paranoia and, avoiding spoilers, the character change of the person who does the deed was too sudden and not well enough supported. The whole thing also turned on a plot device that I couldn’t believe in – namely, that if the electricity got cut off the electric gates to the community couldn’t be opened manually. There is also a piece of totally unnecessary and gruesome animal cruelty, which never works for me. And finally, the ending depends on such a hugely unlikely coincidental event that it lost any remaining credibility.

Pascal Garnier
Pascal Garnier

I know many people have loved this as one of Garnier’s best, so I’m certainly willing to assume that the problems I encountered with it are a result of too recent comparison with the others I’ve read. Certainly his writing, aided by an excellent translation by Emily Boyce, is as good as ever and I did enjoy the early part of the novella a good deal. But the plot didn’t work for me this time round, I’m afraid. I have two other novellas of his on my Kindle, but I think I’ll leave a good long gap this time to try to avoid that feeling of sameness that I found with this one. Tricky, when I’m being rather negative, but I do still recommend this – I suspect with these novellas everyone will find they have different favourites, but all the ones I’ve read so far have been well worth the reading, especially if you’re more skilled at suspending disbelief than I am.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Gallic Books.

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Amazon US Link

57 thoughts on “Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier

  1. You know, FictionFan, you bring up a really interesting point. Part of what we think of a book really does have to do with recent reading. I’ve even found that with types of book. For example, if I read too many thrillers in a row, or too many historicals in a row, etc., that impacts my feelings about the next book I read. So I’m not surprised that this one didn’t sweep you away. I like Garnier’s work very much, but I can also see the need for a break between stories.

    • Yes, I’ve never been one of those people who can read a whole series one after the other. No matter how much I like something, I need variety in between. Again, much though I love NetGalley, it’s one of the downsides that sometimes you end up reading to their timetable rather than your own. But I suspect after a few months break, I’ll enjoy my next Garnier more – I really do like his writing!

  2. I haven’t read this one yet, but The A26 left me cold, so yes, it is probably all a matter of when and where and how often we read them, perhaps. I suspect leaving a gap between them is a good idea.

    • It’s odd, isn’t it, how we all seem to have preferred different ones. I definitely feel I’m reading them too soon one after the other – trying to fit in with NetGalley’s schedule rather than my own. But I’ll leave the other two loitering for a bit and then I suspect I’ll enjoy them considerably more…

    • Haha! Yes, but it’s a good philosophy for reading in general, I find – I always get bored if I read too much by the same author too quickly, even if I love their writing. Butterfly mind…

  3. This actually sounds like a nice read. Maybe it was just the reading of so many similar books back to back that spoiled it for you.

    • Yes, I’m sure that’s the reason – all these Garnier novellas are good, it’s just that reading them too quickly means you start to notice similarities creeping in.

  4. What odd names he choose. I sorta fancy Odette, tho. I might thieve it. I think an Odette would be in the kitchen cutting carrots wit DS’s wife. Yes, I think so.

    See…this is what happens when you go through life with yellow eyes.

    • Yeah, French! Odette – now wasn’t there an Odette in A Kingdom Far and Clear? Hmm… I see her more as a great warrior leading her troops into battle! Men need someone to lead them…

      *laughs* Poor man! I must find a different pic of him next time – he does look a bit miserable in that one…

      • Oh…was there? I barely remember that book, you know. Did I like it? I think I did. Because women have led such successful campaigns in the past… *has a good laugh with Napoleon*

        I think you do it on purpose. Smh

        • What?!?!? You went on the rampage because I didn’t say it was the most fantastic, wonderful book ever written in the entire history of the universe!!! And now you’ve forgotten it?!? Tchah!

          Oh, dear, I shouldn’t really tell you this, but all those wars and battles and stuff you men go on? Well, that’s just women’s way of getting you out of the house so we can get some peace and quiet and not have to watch WWE… *has a good laugh at Napoleon*

          Smh? Hmm… *baffled face*

          • I admit…I might have. I really can’t believe it, but I have. It’s such a shame, I know. I should reread it. But I don’t know. I’m so lazy these days.

            WWE! Now that is something. I haven’t seen some WWE in bunches of times. Not sure if that plan will work anymore. Women are on the brink of being able to be drafted over here…

            Haha. I didn’t know what it was at first either! “Shaking my head.”

            • Tut! We’ll have to design a reading programme for you… I’ll start a new list…

              I think women have in theory been able to be drafted over here since WW2. I’m pretty sure my mum was drafted rather than volunteering. Of course, in those days women didn’t go on the front line, but with the kind of advanced weaponry they use now, plus women in general being so much taller and stronger than they used to be, I suppose it makes sense. It wouldn’t be something I’d have ever wanted to do myself though – front-line, that is. I did toy with joining the army when I was young, but decided I wasn’t very good at following orders…

              Ah-hah!! Txt spch! Urghhhhh!!! smh vehemently!

            • Can we design a watching one instead, pretty pleases?

              Taller and stronger? Hahahahahahahaha. The thing is over here, women can’t pass the training/tests to get into special forces. Heck, I don’t think I could. However, I still think I’m going to join Delta and Eric Bana in Iran. Just for fun, you know.

              I know…what can I say?

            • Nope!! Reading is good for you! But we’ll restrict it to two hours a day to start with. *kind face*

              Eh? What’s funny about that? They are taller and stronger than they used to be!! I used to be considered reasonably tall and now I’m a titch beside most young women! I think there’s lots of people – men and women – who couldn’t pass the tests. But you’re beginning to sound horridly sexist, you know, you know… *phones the Feminists*

              *shakes head in a conventional manner*

            • Two hours? Won’t do it. I’ll rebel and burn things.

              You just say the funniest things sometimes! I say, I think I’ll be laughing for years. Then again, I did see a mummy once in a museum. He was a small chap. Then again, he was dead for lots of times. It’s always a good thing to be a titch. A titch is such an interesting word. Well…it’s sorta a fact. BUDs training is rather fierce. I think I should be a SEAL, the sudden.

            • Too short? OK, three, then, if you insist!

              Maybe it’s not as noticeable in America but here there’s been a huge difference. My little mother was only 4′ 10 and three-quarters” (she was very particular about that three-quarters) which wasn’t too unusual for women of her age. But my generation was much taller and the current crop are positively beanstalkian in their proportions! What’s a fact? That men on average are physically stronger than women? Agreed, but does that make them superior beings? I think not. Strength isn’t everything in life, not even in modern war. Courage and intelligence are just as important – maybe more so. Yes, you should – seals are lovely, especially when they do that basking on rocks thing!

            • I”ll give it…one minute! And not a second more or less or in between! Fair? I think that’s more than fair.

              *laughs littles and lots* FEF, you’re just hilarious, you know, which is good! Never change, please. Okay, you must watch Black Hawk Down and root for Eric Bana. That’s your new mission. *nods*

            • Oh, I’m sorry! Did you think you had a say in the matter? I should have made myself clearer… *adds to list*

              Hmm…!! Yes, well, maybe I will one day, when I feel like watching lots of men shoot each other… *shakes head*

            • No, I’m sorry. I deposed you when you weren’t looking and now I’m Queen. You can be a serf though, if you like!

              Nah, you’re much better looking than him…

  5. Hmm, I haven’t read this one and probably won’t give it a try. The premise — oldsters moving to a new community and facing horrors like animal cruelty — just doesn’t appeal to me. Guess I’m just a hopeless optimist (which today, I need to be because we’re facing grey skies and more rain!)

    • Yeah, the animal cruelty bit put me off totally, and is probably a big part of why I didn’t enjoy this one as mcuh as the others I’ve read. Ah, it never stops raining here! I think we’ve had one nice day so far this year!

  6. You see, having read and surprisingly enjoyed A Garnier on your recommendation of him, I’m interested enough to think about this one, but have settled for the recommended by two bloggers How’s Your Pain?, as my next Garnier outing, but, taking your advice, though downloaded, it won’t be for a while

    I hope there is no animal cruelty though. Us Brits get very distressed at that, and even thinking about it means I probably shouldn’t download a book into the house with animals being cruelled, the very energy of it would distress the residents, never mind the reader.

    • I haven’t read How’s Your Pain? yet though I think it’s one of the ones sitting on the Kindle. But I do think decent gaps between are essential – I really felt the structure of this one was predicatble, even though the stories are always different. But I think you’d hate the animal cruelty element in this one, since it was a little cat – it put me right off and is quite probably the real reason I couldn’t get to like this one too much.

  7. Well, here’s one that won’t tempt me. Sometimes I think authors find devices that have worked for them in the past and instead of stepping out of the comfort zone of the device or exploring the device more thoroughly, they take the easy (and faster) way out and do the “same old thing.” And in some cases, the same thing is a poorer cousin to the original.

    • Yes, it’s the structure of these rather than the actual plots that are the same and it gets so that you know what’s coming – ah, must be about time for a sudden act of viloence… yes, there it is! But with my memory, if I’d read them further apart the similarities wouldn’t have been so obvious. Sometimes the familiar is comforting – other times it’s just repetitive…

  8. You’ve raise some really good points about timing as I do wonder whether Garnier’s novellas suffer from a sort of wear-out factor after a while. Moon hit the spot for me, but then I read it fairly early in the sequence, before The Front-Seat Passenger which turned out to be my least favourite of the four or five I’ve tried so far. Loved your commentary on the walk by the beach – that’s such a great scene.

    • I haven’t read The Front-Seat Passenger yet, but I am finding from other people’s reviews that we all seem to have different favourites, and I do suspect it might be to do with the order we read them in. The way he does that change from light humour to pitch darkness is very original – until you begin to notice it happening in every one. Actually I love his observational writing more than the plots, I think – I’d have liked to have seen him write something longer and less twisty maybe. I loved that beach scene as an example of what I think he does best – suddenly turning something over and letting us see the underside…

  9. I’m with you in that I think these are best read spread out although I’m listening to The Front Seat Passenger on audio and that has quite a different feel to it than the three we’ve both read!

    • I know that’s one Margot highly recommends – I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it. I think it’s the one I missed on NG – gone before I started reading him…

  10. Agree totally – but I can read a series one after the other – because of the character development etc if it is well written. ( CJ Box, Karen Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen etc) However I think a mediocre book stands out when you read next to an outstanding…and sometimes reading a lot of one genre gets a bit “same”, that’s why I mix them up a bit when I can. Good luck with your next read.

  11. I like the sound of this but I’m dreaming of retirement… Since I haven’t read any of this author I’ll add him to the list, although the electronic gate thing is incorrect. They have a key and/or a manual release. (I learned that at work, but would rather be retired and reading all day somewhere near the beach).

    • Yeah, I was sure they’d have a manula override – I don’t mind plot devices but not when they’re totally implausible. Well, I hope when you achieve your dream your retirement turns out to be a little less eventful than poor Martial and Odette’s!

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