I probably picked this one up for the complete wrong reasons. It was part of a ‘3 for £5’ deal at The Works (which is my go to place to get cheap booky goodness) and The Returned caught my eye because I recently binged the TV series on Netflix. Confession: I binged the US version which sadly got cancelled in a cliffhanger. I’ve been told that the French original is far superior, but for me TV is a background noise and trying to watch two series of a French subtitled show just to find out what happens is not appealing to me. Which is how I came about reading a 450 page novel just to find out the ending in the last 50.
So, The Returned is based on the screenplay of the original French series and I definitely think that the setting of a French town added an extra creepy feel. The story worked well with the culture- the distrust of religious characters among the more secular ones felt more at home in a country with such a deep separation of the two. And something about the names being so distinctly French made me think of the older towns I’ve visited in France and how eerie those places would be in this situation. The image of the drowned old village that’s a constant presence beneath the damn was very striking.
Despite being so long it was a much quicker read than I was anticipating and I pretty much read it in a day. Admittedly I did very little else, but it was a fairly light read given the subject matter. The characters were an ensemble, so none of them were as fleshed out as they had the potential to be; we got glimpses into their lives before and after the event but a lot of stuf happens in a short amount of time. I think to have fleshed everything out in full would have required a second book, but I didn’t feel like it was missing too much in terms of character and story development in spite of this.
This was definitely the most stylish zombie novel I’ve ever read. In fact calling it a ‘zombie’ novel might even be a bit misleading- the effects of being undead are subtle and the main focus is the emotional impact that the returned have on the town. I probably still won’t ever get around to watching the French series, but I’m glad to have finally found out the ending!