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Moon in a Dead Eye, by Pascal Garnier, translated by Emily Boyce, Gallic, RRP£6.99, 128 pages
When Martial and Odette move from Paris to “Les Conviviales”, a retirement community in the south of France, they look forward to pleasant company and long, restful summers. What they find is a deserted village, overseen by the taciturn caretaker Monsieur Flesh.
Things improve when a few neighbours arrive, but their initially friendly soirées are overtaken by middle-class rivalries. Soon, the residents become convinced that they are being watched as part of a sinister social experiment. The arrival of gypsies on the outskirts of the village finally pushes them over the edge.
Pascal Garnier, who died in 2010, was often compared to his compatriot Georges Simenon but Moon in a Dead Eye, its atmosphere of languorous ennui punctuated by irruptions of geriatric violence, resembles more a mixture of Albert Camus and JG Ballard. A tense, bleak and queasily strange novel.
Review by David Evans
Malarky, by Anakana Schofield, Oneworld, RRP£11.99, 240 pages
At the centre of Anakana Schofield’s stylish debut is Philomena, an Irish farmer’s wife. Having caught her son in the barn with another man, she barely has time to express her disapproval before he joins the army and is shipped off to Afghanistan. Her husband, meanwhile, has apparently been carrying on with local flirt “Red the Twit”. Intent on getting her own back, Philomena starts an affair with a gentle Syrian immigrant.
Schofield’s narrative alternates between first and third-person – the latter a sort of folksy chorus in which the heroine becomes “Our woman”, a conceit that doesn’t entirely work.
But the sections narrated by Philomena herself, as she reflects on the frustrations of motherhood and married life, are beautifully done. She speaks like a modern Molly Bloom, her voice both lavish and earthy. She is warm, witty company.
Review by DE
Heartbreak Hotel, by Deborah Moggach, Vintage, RRP£7.99, 400 pages
Retired thespian Russell “Buffy” Buffery, mildly famous for the odd bit of telly, is surprised to inherit a dilapidated B&B in rural Wales from an old flame. Being cash-strapped and unattached, Buffy decamps from London to make a go of the business. In his new role as landlord and entrepreneur, he dreams up “Courses for Divorces” an idea that soon attracts a steady stream of slightly damaged singletons eager to brush up on skills that used to be the province of former partners – from car maintenance to decoration.
There’s a generous warmth to Moggach’s characterisation. She has plenty of fun with Buffy’s slightly hammy cast in what is essentially a well spun comic yarn, probing personal foibles and ill-advised attachments (including Buffy’s own chaotic amorous history) for the gentle edification of all. The result is an affable, upbeat entertainment with plenty of wit and humour.
Review by James Urquhart