Book review: The Islanders – I love France #181

The Islanders

The Islanders

Pascal Garnier
Emily Boyce
Gallic Books

Release date:
June 2015
Les Insulaires
was released in France in 1998
also available as ebook
Mystery/ Crime Thriller/ Suspense / Noir


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Pascal Garnier left us a few great examples of French crime fiction before he died. I reviewed here Moon in a Dead Eye, and I definitely plan to read more by him. In case you are not in the mood for some rosy romance, but for something much more noir and meaty, go no further, The Islanders will perfectly fit the bill!

The plot focuses on four characters:

  1. Olivier is married to Odile. Two years before the book opens, he went through a detox treatment. We meet him first on the train to Paris: his mother just died, and he gets there for the funerals. The severe winter conditions will require him of staying in her apartment longer than expected

  2. Jeanne is living in an apartment next to Olivier’s mother. He knocks on her door one day to check something in the phone book, and big surprise: he is face to face with the girl he had a serious affair with, twenty year before! Well, more than an affair...

  3. Rodolphe is blond and obese. He is Jeanne’s brother and lives at her place.

  4. Roland is homeless. He meets Rodolphe by accident, and Rodolphe invites him at his place.

  5. Oh, and la concierge Madeleine!! essential omnipresent French character!!

The four decide one night to have a party together. With lots of consequences…
I really can’t tell you more about the plot without revealing too much.

I really enjoy Garnier’s writing. I’m not too sure how he does it: it’s almost minimalist, it cuts to the point, there’s nothing too much, but just enough to twist together very interesting stories.

In this novel, he tackles the topic of solitude and homelessness at different levels: you may be homeless without a roof above your head, like Roland. But you may have an apartment and still never feel at home, always imagine and dream of a faraway island where things would be so much better than what you have right now. And if you got to that island, would you really be able to escape misery?

Add to that the fact of hopelessness, maybe due to some physical hardships, such as blindness or obesity, or alcoholism, and things get even more complex and noir. Anger and violence relentlessly get to Garnier’s characters, like a monster they can never fully tame, like their darkest hours in their past that eventually catch up with them, whether they remember them or not.


Encore un roman de Pascal Garnier que j’ai fort apprécié. J’aime son écriture à la limite du minimalisme. Rien de trop, juste ce qu’il faut pour créer une ambiance et vous entraîner à la suite de personnages inoubliables. Une réflexion tranchante sur le thème de l’itinérance, au sens physique du mot ou plus imagé. Peut-on vraiment trouver un chez-soi confortable, sous un toit, en soi, dans le présent. dans son passé, sur une île lointaine d’où l’on ne reviendrait jamais?

VERDICT: Great example of French noir fiction. Can you ever flee and escape your past or your present misery?


Just before Christmas in Versailles. Olivier has come to bury his mother, but the impending holidays and icy conditions have delayed the funeral.
While trapped in limbo at his mother’s flat, a chance encounter brings Olivier back in touch with childhood friend Jeanne and her blind brother, Rodolphe.
Rodolphe suggests they have dinner together, along with a homeless man he’s taken in. As the wine flows, dark secrets are spilled, and there’s more than just hangovers to deal with the next morning . . .


Pascal Garnier

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist,
short story writer, children’s author and painter.
From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche,
he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life.
Though his writing is often very dark in tone,
it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit.
Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon.
Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

View all books by Pascal Garnier or discover more Gallic authors

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook for free through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counted for 2015 Reading Challenges


13 thoughts on “Book review: The Islanders – I love France #181

  1. Of course, I want to read this book. It sounds compelling. And, I love short books too. I am always in awe of how much writers explore in that small space. Thank you for writing about this. I am surely adding it to my TBR. 🙂


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