The Islanders by Pascal Garnier seems more like a play with its focus on four characters and tightly defined setting, than a novel. Coming in at 144 pages, it’s a quick read. The novel or novella hinges on the reader and some of the characters discovering the fuller picture of what’s happening as information is withheld.
The narrative opens with Olivier, a recovered alcoholic, returning home to Versailles after his mother’s death. He needs to have a service and deal with the apartment. However, his quick journey is delayed as a massive snowstorm blankets the area. During this time, he meets Jeanne, his true love, whom he has not seen since he was sixteen or eighteen. Why did Olivier leave her? What happened to drive them apart?
One of the characters who can answer that question is Rodolphe, Jeanne’s brother, who is manipulative, cruel, and revels in his obesity as consuming food fills the void left by his blindness. Rodolphe happens upon a young, homeless man and takes him up as a companion of sorts. What are his motives in doing so? A merely wicked interaction turns into something much darker as Rodolphe ventures home with his new companion in tow.
The title, The Islanders, refers to Olivier and Jeanne’s perspective of themselves. They are islanders inhabiting a world of their own creation. Reunited, will they find themselves back on that island or will the machinations of Rodolphe destroy what hope they may have?