A26 by Pascal Garnier

imageThe future is on its way to Picardy with the construction of a huge motorway. But nearby is a house where nothing has changed since 1945.

Traumatised by events in 1945, Yolande hasn’t left her home since.

And life has not been kinder to Bernard, her brother, who is now in the final months of a terminal illness.

Realizing that he has so little time left, Bernard’s gloom suddenly lifts. With no longer anything to lose, he becomes reckless – and murderous …

I had not heard of Pascal Garnier until I came across a review of A26 on Cleopatra Loves Books. It was a while ago now but I immediately went and got myself a copy; unfortunately it has been sat on my kindle ever since as other books overtook it. I think I kept putting it off because I knew it was a dark story and I thought I needed to be in the mood. As my Tuesday Intro shows, that mood is definitely upon me now.

It isn’t just that the A26 is about murder, I read plenty of those, but it is oppressive. Bernard and Yolande’s house (though it’s more Yolande’s as she never leaves it) is stuck in the past and is full of memories. It is – quite literally – drowning in them because Yolande is a hoarder. She is also stuck in the past, reading the same magazines from before the war again and again so she can return to a time when she was happier, before she was assaulted or attacked in some way which is never made completely clear.

Bernard, because of his love of his sister spends his life in limbo. He is her lifeline, going out to work and buying food before returning home to Yolande’s strange moods and rituals. The many things he wanted for himself, including love, have passed him by. And now he has found out he is terminally ill. Life is unfair. It doesn’t seem right that his is being taken away when it has amounted to so little and others should live. Which is why he decides to kill the young girl he picks up hitch hiking. She is only the first.

The lack of emotion he shows when killing, and in the rest of his life, is chilling. Pascal Garnier’s style (and the translation of it) perfectly reflects this. It is cold itself, sparse, with not a word spared. His portrayals of Yolande and Bernard are unforgiving, though it seems there may have once been much to forgive for Yolande, as they are laid bare with all their negative characteristics and behaviours. There is nothing to love in them. Yet they are compelling, a portrait of mental illness and despair. Like I said, very dark.

For all that, it is also a readable book. I found the pages turning quickly and myself completely absorbed. I liked it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from net galley in return for a fair and honest review. All thought, feelings and opinions are my own.

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10 thoughts on “A26 by Pascal Garnier

  1. I can definitely see why you didn’t start reading this right away. I can feel the oppressiveness of the book from the review. The total lack of emotion on Bernard’s part does sound absolutely chilling. I’m impressed that will all the unhappiness the author still made this a very readable book. That’s seriously impressive!

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    • It really is. I did start thinking oh no but because Cleo had said it was good I kept going and it didn’t take long to get completely absorbed. I will definitely be reading more.

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  2. Oh my goodness! It sounds terribly bleak – but clearly it must have a lot going for it, as you managed to get through it and enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. This is my favourite of the Garniers that I’ve read so far. The others ones have been a bit lighter, but I thought this one had a lot of depth, especially with the references to the war. Glad you thought it was good – enjoyable isn’t really the right word for this one, is it?

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    • Not enjoyable but not sure how else I would describe my feelings towards it. Strange but so good. I will be checking out more. I read there were 60 or some thing like that so there will be plenty to choose from no doubt!

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