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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Boxes

by
Pascal Garnier


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Boxes



Title: Boxes
Author: Pascal Garnier
Genre: Novel
Written: (2012) (Eng. 2015)
Length: 169 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Boxes - US
Boxes - UK
Boxes - Canada
Cartons - Canada
Boxes - India
Cartons - France
  • French title: Cartons
  • Translated by Melanie Florence
  • First published posthumously, in 2012

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Our Assessment:

B+ : stylish, and nicely twisted

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 10/4/2012 Christine Ferniot
Publishers Weekly . 17/8/2015 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "(U)n roman inédit, et donc posthume, qui rassemble tout ce qu'on apprécie depuis vingt-cinq ans chez cet auteur tendre et perclus de douleur." - Christine Ferniot, L'Express

  • "This intense, morbid character study from Garnier (19492010) is less noir than gloomy contemporary gothic." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Illustrator Brice Casadamont and the much younger foreign correspondent Emma Loewen are, to everyone -- Brice included -- an unlikely pair, but after a whirlwind romance they got married and have lived happily together since, she frequently jetting off on assignment while he remains sedentary:

At first, with every trip, he was afraid he would never see her again but, strangely, she always came back. He had to get used to the idea that she loved him. This was their life, no matter that it raised a few eyebrows. She came and went. He stayed put, persisting in painting unsaleable canvases more out of habit than enjoyment, and earning derisory sums from illustrating deadly dull children's books.
       Boxes begins with Brice's life all packed away in boxes, waiting for the movers: he and Emma have bought a house in the countryside and are leaving the city, and this is the day of the move. Notably absent: wife Emma, for reasons that are at first unclear -- though when asked:
     'What about your wife ? Still no news ?'
     'I'm hopeful.'
       Hopeful he may be -- assuring the movers: "my wife's joining me" -- but it's soon apparent that the likelihood of Emma coming back into his life are not looking too good. Nevertheless, Brice uproots himself and moves into the huge new house. He's not really thrilled about this, however, and his reluctance manifests itself in his unwillingness to really settle in: he doesn't go about unpacking the boxes but rather just tears into whichever ones he thinks hold whatever he needs at that moment, and he just bunks down in the garage. The in-laws want to be helpful -- encouraging him: "You mustn't let yourself go" -- but their telephone calls don't help him snap out of his funk.
       Meanwhile, his neighbor Blanche is eager to get to know him better -- though she seems to have issue of her own, and Brice's uncanny resemblance to her father complicates matters further.
       Garnier beautifully chronicles Brice's descent -- and brief moments when it looks like he might manage to gather himself again, after all -- in his usual laconic, well-turned style. Typically, for example, he suggests at one point:
The situation was approaching a question of life or death, which can be a hard one to answer.
       Brice's own crisis is a solid foundation for Garnier's tale, but the straightforward story-arcs it enables on its own aren't enough for him; he complicates the story, and throws Brice and any possibility of recovery off course with Blanche, whose own backstory only slowly untangles itself in its full horror for Brice (and the reader). Twisting the two fates together, he doesn't allow Brice any easy (or other) route back to any normality; all that is left are ... boxes.
       Much of the pleasure in every Garnier novel comes with the always jolting yet apposite style. Few writers would conceive or risk passages such as:
     It was beautiful, and it was sad. It made you want to write a poem, or to shit. He opted for the second.
       Following his characters in what seem like mundane situations and simple encounters Garnier calmly peels back the revealing layers, leaving a raw sort of horror all the more devastating for its believable simplicity. It is modern grotesque at its best, not forcing it with the quirkily-exceptional but rather showing how it exists in the almost everyday.
       Boxes is good, dark Garnier-fun, once again.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 September 2015

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Links:

Boxes: Reviews: Other books by Pascal Garnier under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Pascal Garnier lived 1949 to 2010.

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© 2015-2016 the complete review

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