Updated on July 23, 2016
Sometimes when your country votes to leave the EU, you just have to curl up with a good book and escape from it all. That’s more or less what I did with these three graphic novels/short books!
31. Blankets by Craig Thompson
This one caught my eye for the usual reasons – it’s thick and chunky, and it’s an autobiography. Specifically it’s about Craig and his first love, Raina, who meet when they are teenagers at a church camp. The story follows their relationship as it blossoms over a long distance (they live in different states), and what happens during and after Craig goes to visit Raina at her home.
I really enjoyed the religious aspects of this book, particularly how Craig struggles to align the idea of God that he is taught about with his own desire to express himself through art. I thought the black-and-white drawings were really lovely and wonderfully demonstrated the sort of magical beauty that Craig associates with Raina. Just occasionally I thought it tipped over into pretentiousness, and there were some basic spelling mistakes which occasionally broke the illusion for me, but I did find it quite enjoyable.
32. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
Not a graphic novel, this one, but a collection of quotes and anecdotes from Jen Campbell from her experiences of working as a bookseller, and from other bookshop workers too. The book is divided into sections based on the different bookshops in which Campbell has worked, and the illustrations by The Brothers McLeod really bring some of the stories to life.
This is a hilarious book which you can easily skim through in an hour or so, or dip into if you’re feeling in need of a pick-me-up. Prominent themes are obnoxious children not being controlled by their parents (“The bookcases won’t fall if they climb on them, will they?”), people who want a book for its colour or size rather than its contents, and people who do not understand what a bookshop is for (“Do you sell screwdrivers?”). My favourite story is the one about the little girl who wants to be a bee.
33. Just So Happens by Fumio Obata
Yumiko is a Japanese girl living in London; she has been here for over ten years, she has a British boyfriend and she considers the city to be her home (reading this the day after Brexit was a bit of a wrench), but when her father dies she goes back to Japan for his funeral. There she sees her brother and mother, and confronts old memories of her dad.
This book has one of the loveliest art styles I’ve seen in a graphic novel for a while – it is very pretty, with muted colours, all done in stunning watercolour. The story is also the most literary I’ve read in a graphic novel: heartbreaking and genuinely touching, punctuated by moments of humour (a motorbike-riding monk!) and anger (Yumiko’s pursuit by a mysterious Noh dancer). Obata seems to be very skilled at capturing significant moments in his art and giving them a truly emotional punch, and the ending was quite wonderfully ambiguous. I highly recommend this one.
“Life has a time limit. And we are changing all the time. The important thing is to find something that never changes in you.” Just So Happens, Fumio Obata
Have you read any of these books or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts with a comment down below!