Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tamara Drewe

Posy Simmonds
My first thoughts upon flipping through Posy Simmond's (Gemma Bovary) new graphic novel Tamara Drewe was that it was extremely verbose. I was expecting the work to be a lot of descriptions of what was being depicted in the panels. That's not the case however. I found the prose to accentuate what was happening in the comic, kind of serving as word balloons do in some comics, getting inside of character's heads and really flushing them out. And to quite a spectacular result. Tamara Drewe is a comic originally serialized in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, and is an update/retool of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd. It follows a group of characters living in a rural community outside of London. Not much really happens there, so the teenage occupants are always bored and the littlest things can cause an uproar. It also makes for the perfect setting for a writer's retreat, which is what Beth and her famous writer husband Nicholas have established. A variety of writers arrive to be waited on and picked up after in perfect solitude where they can concentrate on writing amid a country setting. Things really get stirred up, however, when Tamara Drew arrives next door. The beautiful columnist knows just how to dazzle people and sets into motion some circumstances that end in misunderstandings and, through some meddling of the locals, death and scandal. There's a lot of turmoil going on in the lives of the people of this quiet town and it plays out pretty damn brilliantly, with life-like characters, engrossing situations and conversations, and very pretty watercolored art. This is a very strong work, so it's no wonder that it recently won the Grand Prix de la Critique Bande Dessinee (like via Journalista). This is easily a frontrunner for best book of 2008, and was an absolute delight to read. Highly recommended.

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