Garnier, Pascal - 'Moon in a Dead Eye' (translated by Emily Boyce)
Martial and Odette have moved to the retirement complex - Les Conviviales. This is a newly built gated village and they are promised security and companionship. The move from their family home in suburban Paris has been hastened by an increasing fear of crime and isolation as their old neighbours and friends have moved away or have died.
When they arrive, they are disconcerted to find that they are the only residents, the only companionship being provided by Monsieur Flesh, the surly caretaker/gardener. Not only that, but the promised facilities such as the swimming pool, club house and the social secretary are not yet available. Martial is bored and fed up with Odette's obsession with shopping for the house and not impressed with the continuing rain.
Then in quick succession, Maxime and Marlene move in, quickly becoming friends with their only neighbours, and then Lea - a single woman who is very cagey with her history, joins them. Now that the residents number five, a social secretary - Nadine - is appointed, the swimming pool is filled and Martial and Odette's life fills up with shared meals, drinks on the terrace and trips out.
However, their new life comes under pressure when some gypsy families move into the area and set up camp just outside the gates. Maxime has hurt his back and Monsieur Flesh warns Marlene not to go out alone since the gypsies cannot be trusted and will take advantage of a woman on her own. Frightened she and Maxime barricade themselves in; Maxime keeping his old army gun close at hand, anxiety and the heat rising day by day. Odette and Martial are worried for them, but when they call at their bungalow, events escalate to end in tragedy.
This is an interesting read. The story of older people moving to supportive communities is relevant in many cultures and the fact that the story is based in France gives it another dimension. There is a dry humour in the story, although not necessarily laugh out loud, and although a slim read, the characters are well written and rounded. It reminds me in some ways of P G Wodehouse although the characters are not caricatures, they are believable – I am sure we have all met Martial, Odette and Co sometimes in our life.
Recommended as a good entertaining read.
Susan White, England