The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier

I was in one of those moods where you just can’t seem to find a book that scratches the itch you have at the moment.  I turned to the ever growing TBR pile and stumbled on a series of books by Pascal Garnier.  So I decided to start with The Panda Theory:

the-panda-theoryGabriel 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 . . .

My reaction? What an odd little book. Bills itself as noir but veers close to black comedy. It is French so perhaps I should have expected weird … :-)

***Potential Spoilers Below***

I did like the way Garnier blends the quaint and troubled lives of Breton, the seemingly friendly but increasingly odd Gabriel, and the mounting flashbacks that lead to the eventual violence.

The characters are well done; quirky enough to seem real. And Gabriel is mysterious and intriguing but with that hint of oddity that suggests menace ever so slightly.

But I am not sure the flashbacks are quite strong enough to carry the weight they are asked to. Garnier eventually has to tell too much of the story in this way and so the shift that they eventually produce is jarring and awkward. The story finds its equilibrium again and ends with an appropriate dark yet comedic note. 

Nevertheless, an odd, but quick and enjoyable, literary novella with a noir flavor.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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