A SECURE GATED COMMUNITY There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re protected and secure. With a dedicated caretaker-manager on site 365 days of the year, our residents can enjoy total peace of mind.
As retirement arrives, people can be coaxed into looking for ideals. Here Martial and Odette, happy until now living in Suresnes, close to Paris, find that the people around them and their local references are changing, their friends are moving house, some have died, they have heard rumours of people being robbed at cash machines, their local market store holders have retired, and so with this background they let themselves be seduced into selling up and moving to the south of France, to Les Conviviales, a retirement village, see the opening quote. Except that things are rarely as they seem as they are the first to arrive in winter:
Martial compared the photo on the cover of the brochure with the view from the window. It was raining. It had rained almost every day for the past month. A slick of water shone on the Roman-tiled roofs of the identikit ochre pebbledash bungalows, each fronted by a matching patch of Astroturf-green lawn. At this time of year, the regimented rows of broom-like shrubs provided neither leaves, nor flowers, nor shade. All the shutters were closed. The fifty or so little houses were lined up obediently on either side of a wide road, with gravel paths leading off to each home. Viewed from the air, it must have looked something like a fish skeleton.
This begins as a satire on seeking change, as the village only ever attracts five people, Martial and Odette the first arrivals and then Maxime and his wife Marlène, and finally Léa. Pascal Garnier then slowly investigates these people living in their gated village in the middle of nowhere, each of them having their own quirkiness, for instance Léa who has been given the house by her former employers family after her death to get rid of her and as she admits to Nadine, the village social secretary, she now cannot move as the houses are unsaleable. As she and Nadine are preparing supper one evening we understand that Léa has absences:
The wine had made them a little drunk. They spontaneously moved to tutoiement.
You must have a good laugh watching us, right?
I admit that sometimes I have trouble not laughing.
The other day for instance, when Marlène……Léa… What are you doing?…
Léa was smiling, Her eyes were empty, as she filled the salad bowl with anything at hand, peelings, her keys, her purse……Nadine watched her, eyes wide open….
Léa let herself be led to the sofa. No sooner was she sat down than she closed her eyes and fell asleep. She was still smiling.***
As the story moves on, a camp of gypsies, the grain of sand, move next to the gated community and from then on things spiral out of control with the true sides of each of the residents shining through until the explosive end. A well written satire, don’t let anyone sell you a hapiness package for your retirement!
First Published in French as “Lune captive dans un oeil mort” in 2009 by Zulma.
Translated into English by Emily Boyce and published as “Moon in a Dead Eye” in 2013 by Gallic Books
*** my translation
The quote as read in French before translation
Le vin les avait rendues un peu pompette. Spontanément, on était passé au tutoiement.
Tu dois bien t’amuser à nous observer, non?
J’avoue que parfois, j’ai du mal à me retenir.
L’autre jour, par exemple, quand Marlène a…. Léa?… Qu’est-Ce que tu fais?…
Léa souriait, l’œil vide, en remplissant le saladier de tout et n’importe quoi, les épluchures, ses clés, son porte-monnaie….Nadine la regardait faire, les yeux ronds….
Léa se laissa conduire jusqu’au canapé. À Peine fut-elle assise qu’elle ferma les yeux et s’endormit. Elle souriait toujours