Posted on September 30, 2016
3 graphic novels by women
It’s time for another triple graphic novel review, and this time all of the books I’ll be reviewing have been written by women (two by the same woman, ‘cos she’s pretty great).
It’s always nice to celebrate women in a form in which they are often under-represented, so here goes, three more fantastic graphic novels…
45. The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger
Three sisters – Clothilde, Ophile and Bettine – live together very closely. But when Bettine (the prettiest) begins a romantic relationship with Paris, her sister Ophile (the smartest) grows very jealous. Clothilde (the most talented) must watch as her sisters’ relationship deteriorates and Ophile’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, with devastating consequences for the tight-knit family.
This is an interesting book, because there really are very few words to this story. According to Niffenegger’s afterword, this was a ’14-year labour of love’, during which time the text diminished and the emotional weight of the story was carried more and more by the aquatint images. For this reason I found that I had to slow myself down as I read and really look at the images (it sounds silly, I know, but it’s words that do it for me and they tend to be what I focus on, even in a graphic novel!). The story feels loose and unpredictable, but overall it packs a strong emotional punch.
46. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Alexandra, Lexi for short, has an argument with her boyfriend and spends the night walking the streets of her city. At 4am she comes across a parked Winnebago, blaring out music in an empty street. She investigates and discovers that it is a library, run by an old man, and it contains every book/magazine/cereal packet she has ever read. After she has spent a few hours browsing its shelves, the Night Bookmobile drives away, and Lexi spends the rest of her life searching for it again – finding it occasionally – and trying to discover a way to become a night-librarian herself.
OK, I need a night bookmobile in my life. Reading this book made me desperate for such a thing to really exist – I’d love to go back and rediscover all the books I read as a child, and all the ones I no longer remember. This graphic novel has a beautiful, bright art style and an absolutely mesmerising story with a quite unexpected and emotional ending. I particularly loved the little details of the library, like how it grows, Tardis-like, every time Lexi returns, and how unfinished books are blank after the point at which she abandoned them. It’s just such a comforting book, which reminded me why I love reading.
47. The Inflatable Woman by Rachael Ball
At the beginning of this book, Iris, a zookeeper, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Part of the story is her dealing with this diagnosis and the treatments that follow, but this is also a love story, as Iris tries to escape her reality by chatting online to a lighthouse keeper called Sailorbuoy_39. Above all, though, this is a story about a woman learning about herself – her body, her feelings and her resilience.
There is a strong thread of magical realism running throughout this book – for example, the penguins Iris takes care off at the zoo can talk (and are often quite rowdy) and show up in unexpected places throughout the story. I think Ball handles the emotions of this story very deftly, and there were two moments that particularly stood out to me. First, I laughed out loud at the proposed breast replacements Iris could have had after her mastectomy – they were a series of random objects put under the skin where her breast used to be, including a bucket and even a barn owl! Second, there was the view, from above, of Iris waking up on the morning of her surgery, alone – I really felt her fear through the relatively simple pencil drawings. Brilliant.
“In the same way that perfume captures the essence of a flower, these shelves of books were a distillation of my life.” – The Night Bookmobile
Have you read any of these books or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts!