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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Too Close to the Edge

Pascal Garnier

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To purchase Too Close to the Edge

Title: Too Close to the Edge
Author: Pascal Garnier
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 144 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Too Close to the Edge - US
Too Close to the Edge - UK
Too Close to the Edge - Canada
Trop près du bord - Canada
Trop près du bord - France
  • French title: Trop près du bord
  • Translated by Emily Boyce

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Our Assessment:

B+ : brutally over the top, but good fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Literary Review . 6/2016 Jessica Mann
The NY Rev. of Books . 9/4/2020 John Banville
The Spectator . 2/7/2016 Jeff Noon

  From the Reviews:
  • "Pascal Garnier’s subversive, almost surreal tales come in slim little volumes, seldom more than 150 pages or so. But in that space he manages to say as much, and more memorably too, than many authors of books that are too heavy to hold." - Jessica Mann, Literary Review

  • "It becomes almost comic in a grand guignol manner. Still, this is a short, sharp shocker, laced with keen philosophical insight amid the blood and guts." - Jeff Noon, The Spectator

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:

       In Too Close to the Edge now-sixty-four-year-old Éliette is living in Saint-Vincent, in the somewhat isolated country home she moved to after her husband, Charles, passed away. Dependent for a while on either her bicycle or the neighbors, Rose and Paul Joubert, to help her get around, the driver-license-less Éliette finally purchased an Aixam microcar, giving her a bit more independence and freedom, and she's settled in quite comfortably in her new home now. The grown kids live fairly far away but stay in touch -- and they're expected for the weekend, with the grandchildren in tow.
       Éliette still feels young, and doesn't look worn-out aged, and she's a bit disappointed that her opportunities for male companionship and romance and intimacy are limited -- but when she has a flat returning from town, as luck would have it a man who has apparently also had car troubles comes down the road just in time to help her change the spare. She invites this man in his forties, Étienne Doilet, home to call for a garage and help, and he winds up staying for a while. Almost at the same time comes the terrible news from next door: one of the Joubert's son was involved in a fatal car accident. If Éliette doesn't immediately put two and two together and figure out that Étienne's abandoned car (the police: "think it was stolen") is connected to the death, it doesn't take her too long to see there might be a connection. But Étienne is good company, and she's fine with not letting on exactly what she knows. The way things go, that also means that, as the story progresses, there's more and more she's holding back .....
       If Garnier initially suggests a sinister-stranger plot -- with the first fatality already out of the way by the time he appears on the scene -- the book quickly turns and dives headlong into far deeper, darker territory. Étienne turns out to be a fairly harmless character, who is sort of trying to turn his life around -- but he is carrying quite the secret with him, one that is intended to help him and his associate start fresh, well-funded. The associate, who turns up at Éliette's soon enough, turns out to be his long-lost daughter -- whom he became reacquainted with in rather shocking manner recently -- and the coup they're on the run with certainly complicates matters. Even here Garnier doesn't take the story down the obvious route; instead, the complications include the Joubert's other son showing up for his brother's funeral with his boyfriend -- something Paul can't handle well -- as well as the fact that it turns out Paul has long harbored a secret passion for Éliette.
       Éliette is a bit clueless about some of the things going on around her -- as when Étienne's daughter "Agnès's sniffle did not appear to have cleared up, but strangely it had given her a burst of boundless energy" -- but she's not completely naïve; indeed, by the end she'll be dabbling with a few snorts of her own ..... Still, the speed with which events unfold is a bit much for her to take at first. As she tells Étienne:

     "But I won't ever forget what's happened. Things can't go back to the way they were. What on earth's been going on the last two days ? I don't have any clue any more ! It's as if the whole world's gone mad, me included !"
     "That's life, Éliette , that's all. You think you're safe, like when you're on the motorway; it's a bit boring, you lose concentration and then ... a loose bit of gravel, an insect, and whoops ! You've lost control, spun around, and find yourself facing the wrong way. But hey, if you're not dead, you'll still end up somewhere ! I bought some tomatoes and lamb chops. Do you fancy some food ?"
       Mind you, this is before things really start going haywire. But Éliette decides she's all in with Étienne: the idea of a future with him appeals to her, and she decides to do what it takes to make that possible. In the end, it takes a lot -- everyone is guilty, the body count keeps rising (there is a lot of carnage -- a lot of it).
       Nevertheless, despite all the havoc, a happy end of sorts looks almost possible, as Éliette's new life awaits, she determined by then to do what needs be done. But, of course, this is a Pascal Garnier novel, and the author has one last cruel twist of the knife left .....
       Too Close to the Edge is over the top in its twists and its carnage -- almost comically so, at times -- but it still works. In a matter of days Éliette lives through a lifetime of experience; it's all a bit much -- especially at this pace -- but Garnier's twists repeatedly nicely wrong-foot reader-expectations, making for an agreeably unsettling thriller-read.
       Too Close to the Edge is rather bloody and very messy, but in its own way entirely satisfying, too.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 June 2016

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Too Close to the Edge: 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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