Friday, 9 May 2014
Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart
Published by: Random House UK
Genre: Contemporary (Graphic novel)
A tale of single parenting and heavy metal.
'When someone looks back and writes a history of this summer, two people they will almost certainly leave out are Sue ad Daniel Bagnold...'
So begins Joff Winterhart's sublimely funny and perceptive graphic novel, Days of the Bagnold Summer. Sue, 52, works in a library. Daniel, 15, is still at school. This was the summer holidays Daniel was due to spend with his father and his father's pregnant new wife in Florida. When they cancel his trip, Sue and Daniel face six long weeks together.
Joff Winterhart perfectly captures the ennui, the tension, the pathos and yes, the affection of this mother-son relationship. Already well-known for his animated films like Violet and Turquoise, he here shows himself to be a comics author of extraordinary talent
Days of the Bagnold Summer is the graphic novel that turned my attention to the genre. I discovered it while listening to a book-related podcast dedicated to GNs and it was at the time that it had been nominated for the 2012 Costa Prize.
What I discovered from reading this novel was that GN's aren't all about superheros and supernatural creatures. (No doubt most people aren't as clueless as I am.) This one is a contemporary poignant tale of a relationship between a single mother and her son. You get to see both perspectives.
I am starting to really appreciate the power of the menage of written and pictorial story-telling. The illustrations in this one are brilliant. I could actually see traces of Sue as well as Daniel's father in him.
It is realistic and unglamourous in the way British contemporary drama is usually portrayed (in contrast to the fantasy and slickness of American contemporary drama, i.e., characters are good-looking with perfect white teeth, great bodies often glamoursly dressed, living in nice houses, often in quaint small towns or the good parts of well-known cities).
The synopsis mentions humour and I could see where this was intended, but I didn't laugh much. If I am honest, I found it rather dreary and a bit of a slog to get through. Each to their own but, unashamedly, I prefer my drama dished out the slick American way (although beauty is relative and I suppose I can tolerate the absence of perfect white teeth).