Home > 21st Century, French Literature, Novel, Pancol, Katherine, Sugar without cellulite > Crocodiles, turtles and then squirrels

Crocodiles, turtles and then squirrels

The Turtles’ Slow Walz follows The Crocodiles’ Yellow Eyes, which I read last year with pleasure. I was not eager to read the following, though. As I was to spend a whole week-end with half-strangers in a chalet, I thought I’d rather not take Swann’s Way with me. I would not have the quiet environment required to fully appreciate Proust’s lacy prose and follow Swann through his winding passion for Odette. Moreover, I didn’t want to draw attention on me with such a difficult author and look like a boring highbrow. The Turtles’ Slow Walz seemed a safe choice.

 It’s a novel about the life of a family and their relatives. The main character is Josephine, a widower of 43, with two teenage daughters, Hortense and Zoe. Her sister, Iris, is married to Philippe and has one son, Alexandre. Josephine is a history researcher, a specialist of the 12th century. At the beginning of the book, she just moved in a fancy apartment in Paris, after she earned much money from the success of her first historical novel. The story jumps from one character’s life to another, always describing the events through their eyes.

Josephine is insecure and struggles to discover who she really is. She trips on flat floors and gets her feeling all muddled up. Her mind has the small but beautiful melody of Verlaine’s Arriettes or Debussy’s Clair de Lune. The title of the novel is a reference to her: she likes to muse, walks slowly and has a protective shell.

 The good surprise for me was a Romain Gary’s quote as a foreword. Katherine Pancol must be a fan as several details are linked to him. Philippe reads Clair de Femme, one of Gary’s novels and several first names are connected to Romain Gary : Josephine’s friend’s son is named Gary, Iris & Philippe’s son is named Alexandre, as Romain Gary’s son, a dead baby is named Romain. Now that I think of it, in The Crocodiles’ Yellow Eyes, Iris and Josephine create the same kind of literary mystification as Romain Gary did in 1974. Indeed, when he wrote The Life Before Us, he didn’t want people to know he wrote it, so his cousin, Paul Pavlowitch played the role of the author, under the name of Emile Ajar. He talked on TV shows, gave interviews. The truth was discovered only after Gary died. Josephine would be Romain Gary and Iris Paul Pavlowitch.

 Katherine Pancol is not a great writer but she has a lovely style. Her sentences are like all kinds of water, from sparkling, light and airy with bubbles to tumultuous flood. Its rhythm leads the reader through the story, she uses pretty images. She has an agreeable voice. Her novel is a strange mix of genres: romance for Josephine’s love life, chick-lit for Hortense’s London fashion school, fantasy for voodoo references and crime story as a serial killer is on the loose in Josephine’s neighbourhood. That last part was a weakness in the book; I guessed at once who the killer was and who would get murdered in Josephine’s circle.

 This book brought me what I expected, a nice distraction and I would recommend it for that. I saw in a book store that the third and apparently last volume, Central Park’s Squirrels Are Sad on Mondays, has just been published.

  1. December 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I reviewed Un homme à distance and liked it (apart from the ending) and use it now for all the suggestions on other books. Did you read it? I would be curious to read this because of the allusions to voodoo as I have an aborted PhD in a drawer on the topic…


    • December 14, 2010 at 9:44 am

      Don’t read this for the voodoo allusions, you’d be disappointed.
      Read it if you want to spend a nice moment with a page turner novel. Her style is agreable. It’s like watching a good film.


  1. July 30, 2011 at 8:19 am
  2. January 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

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