March 2, 2017 | The Slow Waltz of Turtles is published by Allen and Unwin. RRP $29.99, available now.
This is a tricky review for me to write. THE SLOW WALTZ OF TURTLES by Katherine Pancol, has elements of a fantastic novel. It is a chic lit, mystery, drama and thriller set in France (one of my favourite locations), and a sequel to an international bestseller (THE YELLOW EYES OF CROCODILES 2.5 million copies sold). I haven’t read the first book, but it didn’t take much to catch up on the story and i think this novel stands well on it’s own.
It is the story of Josephine, a mother of two who has moved into an upmarket Paris apartment after the novel she ghost-wrote for her sister is a huge success. Her life is about as messy as it can get; two teenagers, a booty call who has baggage, sister in an asylum, weird neighbours, and her brother-in -law who is her soul mate but they haven’t found the right time to get together. Throw into this a random attempt on Josephine’s life, and bodies turning up in the local neighbourhood and you have this novel.
Sound confusing? It is.
Is it trying to do too much? Maybe.
The tricky part of this review to me is that this book is translated from French. I was reminded of another French translation HAPPY PEOPLE READ AND DRINK COFFEE, a book where NO ONE is happy, they own a bookshop they’re hardly ever in and they NEVER READ, and they DON’T DRINK COFFEE!
THE SLOW WALTZ OF TURTLES has similar sticking points and I wonder if this is due to the translation, which seems to miss the emotion in the story in favour of a running sheet of events. For example, the turtles in the title only become relevant at the end in a bizarre and emotionless twist and there are irrelevant digressions (for example the daughter being beaten and bullied to drop a scholarship that we never hear about again). SLOW WALTZ also suffers from multiple shifts of point of view at random times.
But in both translated novels, it is the male characters that cause the most concern. They are depicted as controlling, brooding, rude and arrogant, caricatures of real men missing the vital depth and emotion to make them realistic. It is pretty much expected that men will have mistresses, and women will be hysterical messes, and superficial wealth is the main aim of all characters.
Is this a French literature thing? Is this a translation thing? If I was fluent in French and read this novel in French, would I experience it in the same way? I would love to know your thoughts if you have.