Posted on June 10, 2016
Triple graphic novel review!
I’ve really been getting into graphic novels recently, and I’ve found that curling up on a Sunday afternoon and reading one in a single sitting is loads of fun and wholly satisfying. So this week, instead of just one, I have a triple graphic novel review!
19. Take It As A Compliment by Maria Stoian
This is a collection of stories written by victims (men and women) about their experiences of cat-calling, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and rape. The stories confront honestly the feelings of shame, worthlessness, anger, helplessness and self-hatred, and many of them are very powerful. There are stories about rape on a blind date, abuse by a trusted friend, and the sexualisation of girls at an inappropriately young age. The book lacks any sense of judgement, merely providing a platform for the victims to tell their stories in their own way (and there is advice in the back for survivors of abuse, and friends of survivors).
I thought the art really beautifully complemented the stories in this collection. In some stories there is no speech (showing how the victims don’t have voices), and in others you get these amazing see-through hands on people’s bodies which indicate where they have been touched. I particularly loved the story about the hitchhiker, in which the accompanying art uses things like map markers to tell the story. This is a very quick read and most of the stories haven’t really stayed with me, but I think this is an important book for raising awareness of abuse in an approachable and sympathetic way.
20. A Taste of Chlorine by Bastien Vivès
This graphic novel tells the story of a teenage boy with curvature of the spine who takes up swimming to strengthen his back. At first he is reluctant to go, but after he meets a talented woman at the pool he quickly becomes a regular. One day she mouths something to him under the water, but what does she say? And will he ever be able to swim a whole length without coming up for air?
The art style of this book features (of course) a lot of blues; bodies are clear and defined above the water and blurry beneath it. The story is quite compelling and it has an absolutely heart-racing ending, although it was a little confusing so I wasn’t left entirely satisfied.
3. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
Rather than a standard graphic novel, this book is more like a short story or novella accompanied by lots and lots of illustrations, and it is absolutely beautifully designed. There are full-page illustrations, and the text is embellished with pretend stained pages and library stamps; even the front cover has a pocket for an old-style library withdrawal slip. The pictures are usually inspired by an element picked out from the text, so the experience of reading this book is incredibly rich and rewarding.
The story is a little overshadowed by how brilliant the layout is; I’m not sure that I’d have found it nearly so engaging if it was just text on the page. The Strange Library is about a young man who goes into a library on a whim to look something up and finds himself in a basement reading room attended by a sheep man, a mysterious girl and an old man who wants to eat his brain. It has all of Murakami’s trademark surrealism dialled up to eleven, but it’s the art that’s the real star of the show.
“All I did was go to the library to borrow some books.” The Strange Library, Murakami
Have you read any of these books or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts with a comment down below!