Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier

The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier
First published in French as La Theorie du panda by Zulma in France in 2008. English language translation by Svein Clouston published by Gallic Books in March 2012.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2015 and my WorldReads from France. This novel was my 2000s read for the 2015-16 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publishers via NetGalley.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he's here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals. His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair. But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past...

Having just uploaded my Under The Udala Trees review to NetGalley, I was absent-mindedly browsing their Read Now books when The Panda Theory cover and title caught my eye. I wasn't previously aware of Pascal Garnier so this was a real impulse download, the impetuosity of which I continued by reading the novella on the same day. It's brilliant!

Set in Brittany, an area of France that Dave and I both love, I was easily able to envisage the small town setting as richly described by Garnier. The frequently deserted streets and slightly odd characters add to a creepily unsettling atmosphere, especially as our central character, Gabriel, is the one we as readers know least well. Under the cover of kindness, Gabriel rapidly insinuates himself into the lives of Portuguese bar owner Jose, drug addict Rita and hotel receptionist Madeleine. Then Garnier suddenly whips away the cover and reveals Gabriel's horrific past.

I loved the pace and style of The Panda Theory. It is very French and reminded me of film noir cinema. Garnier manages to swiftly portray deep real people and quirky elements such as the eponymous Panda are cleverly interwoven into his tale. I was disappointed to learn at the end of the book that this author died in 2010, but at least he has left a back catalogue of work for me still to discover.

Etsy Find!
by Bitzas in
Newcastle-under-Lyme, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Pascal Garnier / Crime fiction / Books from France


  1. I don't think I have read a book that would reminded me of film noir cinema. I'm trying to read more mysteries/thrillers and this is a 5-star! So I should check it out. Thanks for the review Stephanie! OH! I just noticed you reviewed the NoNLG. Off to check it. I'm curious about that one!

  2. UGH! After I left the comment the blog doesn't show me the "you amy also like" so I can't find NoNLG!!!

    1. Here you go! My review of The Knife of Never Letting Go is at
      Love Manchee!

  3. I love the cover, too. It's always great to read a book set in a place where you've been before. Makes for a better reading experience.

    Great review!

    1. Thank you :-)
      I could easily envision the streets where Gabriel walked, but having read The Panda Theory I might not want to go back!