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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Eskimo Solution

Pascal Garnier

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To purchase The Eskimo Solution

Title: The Eskimo Solution
Author: Pascal Garnier
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 159 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Eskimo Solution - US
The Eskimo Solution - UK
The Eskimo Solution - Canada
La Solution Esquimau - Canada
La Solution Esquimau - France
  • French title: La Solution Esquimau
  • Translated by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely dark (if not yet darkest) Garnier

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Globe and Mail A 11/11/2016 Margaret Cannon
The NY Rev. of Books . 9/4/2020 John Banville

  From the Reviews:
  • "Aside from the unfortunate title, this elegant little novel is a gem. (...) Itís short, sleek, beautifully written and well translated." - Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

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:

       The Eskimo Solution is narrated by a fairly successful writer of kids' books who is looking to do something new and different. The book he has in mind is about a man who kills his mother for the inheritance and then, seeing how easy it is and how favorable the outcome, decides to do the same favor for his 'friends in need' -- justifying it too as a modern-day version of the 'Eskimo solution' (of what to do with those that have outlived their viability and usefulness):

He kills peoples parents the way Eskimos leave their elders on a patch of ice because ... it's natural, ecologically sound, a lot more humane and far more economical than endlessly prolonging their suffering in a dismal nursing home.
       His editor isn't thrilled by the idea:
     'Why don't you carry on writing for children ? Your kids' books are doing well ...'
       But the writer has his heart set on going in this new direction (though among his less convincing attempts to win over the editor he tells her: "This is a kids' book ! He's a really nice guy !"). Reluctantly, the editor gives him an advance, which the writer uses to rent a cottage by the sea where he hopes to write the book; when the book opens he's been working away for two months -- or rather not working: he hasn't gotten very far.
       The story of the unnamed writer resembles that of Pascal Garnier, a successful children's book author who moved on into considerably darker territory with his decidedly adult later fiction. (Despite what the writer tells his editor, neither The Eskimo Solution nor the fictional book the writer is trying to pen are appropriate for the kids.) The Eskimo Solution, first published in 1996, is one of Garnier's earliest forays into this darker adult territory, and there's certainly no small bit of Garnier in the struggling nameless author of the novel.
       The Eskimo Solution actually begins with an excerpt from the work-in-progress: readers find themselves first in that novel, before they are pulled back to 'reality' and learn that what they just read wasn't 'reality' but rather a part of a novel ..... The protagonist of the novel the writer is trying to write is Louis, a rather sad sack who lives out the premise the writer had sketched out to his editor.
       The writer isn't exactly suffering from writer's block, but he is having trouble making much headway. Still, over the course of The Eskimo Solution his progress, in the form of additional excerpts from the novel-in-progress, is charted, and the two stories -- 'real' and fictional -- advance side by side.
       The writer's seaside get-away is fairly isolated, but he's not left entirely alone. His neighbors impose on him a bit -- and the husband is in increasingly poor health. And there's the writer's girlfriend, Hélène -- not present at the start of the novel, but eager to swing by and come get him for a brief getaway to England. That falls through, but Hélène's free-spirited sixteen-year-old daughter, Nathalie shows up ..... And there's troubled friend Christophe, who is dealing with a difficult situation and winds up doing something horrible, and then shows up at the writer's retreat where they ponder what he should do.
       Between the goings-on around the writer, and those in the novel he is trying to write, we already get quite a few of the gleefully dark and awful twists Garnier would become known for. If anything shows this to be an early variation on his later themes it's that he still holds back and can't yet revel fully in darkness and absurdity: The Eskimo Solution is well-tempered Garnier -- while, of course, Garnier is at his best when he truly embraces the outrageous.
       The Eskimo Solution is a good, enjoyable read -- and probably a good introduction to Garier's work -- but for readers used to the harder, later stuff it might seem almost a bit tame, as he's just beginning to get a feel for the territory. There's a hesitancy here, as Garnier repeatedly pulls back where in his later works he just barrels wonderfully ahead.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 September 2016

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The Eskimo Solution: Reviews: Other books by Pascal Garnier under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Pascal Garnier lived 1949 to 2010.

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© 2016-2021 the complete review

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