Monday, 2 February 2015

Review: The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier



Title: The Panda Theory
Author: Pascal Garnier
Cover Artist: Gallic Books
Publisher: Gallic Books
Release Date: March 26th 2012 (first published February 4th 2008)
Genre: Noir
Page Count: 171
Original Language: French
Format Read: Paperback
Other books in series: N/A
Movie Adaptation: N/A



I bought this book because I'm doing a school project as part of my A-Levels, and I needed a few books that would have both literary and philosophical worth. This had a good description and positive reviews on Goodreads so I decided that this might be a good book to choose.

And oh boy did I love it. It is worth a lot more to me than of purely literal and philosophical means. Beware for a seriously positive review (it reads very slushy because I have a big book crush on this book).

Blurb:

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he's here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .


The first page:




*Spoiler Alert - this review does not assume you are familiar with the story's ending*

I had never heard of this book until I had searched the net for hours, trying to find the perfect books for my EPQ, and came across it. Indeed the title caught my eye, and the fact that it was clearly a French author who had written it made me want to read the English translation even more.
I’ve never read a noir before. It has been such a long time since I’ve even heard the genre mentioned that I forgot it was a valid genre altogether. So this alone would have drawn me towards it, because for me, the darker the novel… the better.
The Panda Theory is about a man called Gabriel who is temporarily in a Breton town, and he’s extremely kind and can cook very well. That’s all we know about him and all we ever find out about him, but the book subtly reveals parts of his past that could suggest him to be our noir villain. He wins a toy panda at a fair and gives it to one of his new friends whose wife is currently in a coma and in hospital. 
Though the panda doesn’t seem to play a big part in the telling of the story, it helps add dimension to Gabriel, and we find out more about him through the comparison to the panda. His friends love him and he has a love interest too, so where does it start to become grim? You definitely have to read carefully to spot all of the clues. 
To say it would be a dream of mine to write a novel as successfully as this noir was would be quite the understatement. I just never knew what I was in store for when reading this book. It begins as innocently as the sunrise, drawing you in with its bright and breezy feel. Then, Gabriel starts having these flashbacks, the feel to the reader is akin to the first day of school… a little unnerving, but otherwise fine. 
The rest of the book passes like this, its humorous tone keeping you afloat, but you can tell the sun is starting to set. Now the book feels heavier somehow, like you’re stuck in a lift with a suspicious smell, and you’re hoping you’ll get out in the next moment with full use of your senses remaining. 
And then the last few pages feel like your best friend is stabbing you in the chest with a blunt knife. You hope its over, but the pain is only prolonged through a sudden turn of events.
There is no less creative way of describing this book without spoiling it, and to do so would do it no justice. It was full of existentialism and illusions of the mind and self-awareness, all contradicting themselves but in the sweetest way possible. I would consider it an easy-read, but this makes it all the less predictable. And I loved that element of it.
I think I might have given this book four stars on Goodreads, but I read it like it was a five and reviewed it like it was a five. The Panda Theory is a gloriously dark treasure of a book that makes you and breaks you, and the translator did a great job. Five cups of tea from me!


Note: This review is also on my tumblr blog for my school project, so I have not stolen this review from anyone! I wrote it, and the two times it is on the internet was posted by me.

About the author:

garnier150x200
Photo from Gallic Books website

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ard├Ęche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. 

2 comments:

  1. Really pleased you liked it! This was the first book I read by Pascal Garnier and I was instantly hooked. Gallic Book has translated quite a few of his books by now. I really, really liked 'How's the Pain?' (probably my favourite), but there are so many other good ones. Takes a strong stomach though. Very dark.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for leaving a comment! I am yet to check out any more of his books but I really want to, I think he was a really talented author. The darker the book, the better!

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