on October 31, 2012
Parts of this book are quite powerful. There are certain images and certain words that pack enough metaphor to knock you off your feet. That's a rare and precious thing, especially in graphic novels. Graphic novels are extremely hard to do well because they require the author to master illustrations and prose and storytelling. Most are lucky to do one of the three.
After the 89th page, I was convinced this book was going to be rare and precious. The first 89 pages are about meeting and eventually falling for Cati, and then about meeting and struggling to bond with her 3-y-o HIV-positive son. I really thought this was going somewhere, that it would be about the struggle to become a father and a husband amid a grim, looming reality. In one scene, the 3-y-o is shown attaching himself to the author at a party, a moment that was both innocuous and heavily charged with meaning, when the author didn't have to "choose" to become a father-figure but rather was anointed one.
At this point I am not even half-way through the book and my eyes are running. I am loving this book and can't wait to finish it. This explains my massive disappointment with the final 100 pages, in which the 3-y-o becomes essentially irrelevant and the story instead turns to condoms... and then to woolly mammoths. I am still struggling to understand how the author could find such depths within the first 90 pages and then turn the next 65 pages into a discussion of the mechanics of contraceptives, and then follow with 20 pages of what amounts to philosophical nonsense while seated on top of -- randomly -- a mammoth. The first 90 pages were filled with such warmth and poetry and metaphor, and then it somehow grotesquely flopped into cold philosophical abstraction. It hurts to see the first 90 pages of this book go to such terrible waste.
Frederik Peeters tells the story of his relationship with his wife Cati and her 3 year old son, both of whom are HIV positive. He meets Cati years after meeting her for the first time to find that since their last meeting she has had a child, been divorced, and contracted AIDS. This doesn't stop him from being with her but we learn of the obstacles that come with it. The cautious beginnings of their physical love, the vigilance of maintaining a normal life for the child despite a regime of pills and syrups, and a scare when a condom breaks and Peeters thinks he's contracted the virus (he hasn't).
The book shows a deep and fulfilling love between Peeters and Cati, one that has the spectre of AIDS in the background but never dominating their life to the point where they can't live. They live their life as normal couples do and their relationship is both moving and sweet. The relationship between Peeters and his stepson is also very well told here. The scene when during a house party the 3 year old moves through the guests to where Peeters is sitting on the balcony and then sitting between his legs to play with his toy dinosaurs is very touching and not at all sentimental.
The stark realism of the story is belayed in the final part of the book where the author works out his frustrations and anger with a wise mammoth as they roam the prehistoric plains, the mammoth quoting everyone from Oscar Wilde to Burt Reynolds. The magical realism works and the author comes to realise how he cherishes his wife and son more because of the illness and how through the challenges they have developed a stronger love for each other.
Peeters draws as beautifully as he tells his story, the illustrations being somewhere between Craig Thompson and Jeff Lemire, both masters. The book is a beautiful and moving evocation of love in the face of adversity. Very easy to read, a fascinating story told expertly and lovingly, I recommend it to any and all.
on April 14, 2016
A very mature, very emotional and intellectual book.
A man falls in love with a woman. She has HIV, and so does her son. Is he capable of loving her? Does her disease mean anything at all? What's fact, what's fiction?
The author learns about life and love in this book, and what it takes to not only be a man, but to be human and to what it takes to be himself, and just who is he?
It's honestly beautiful.
You can pick up a cheap hardcover for like $0.26 from amazon so check it out.
on March 6, 2015
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Brilliant.
As for the packaging. Reliable, quick. Just one problem :/ my mailman put it outside so the book got all cold and it worried me. But its fine
on August 27, 2011
"Blue Pills" is not your average memoir and neither are the people that you meet in it. It's a powerful, moving, heartwarming, and heartbreaking story all at the same time. You see Frederik Peeters is dating Cati a woman with a young son...and both Cati and her son are HIV positive. The story falters in some places, only because it's been translated into English and some words/phrases don't adapt well. But it's a minor point. Frederik tells their story of life together, of falling in love, of caring for Cati's son, and the ever looming future that is so frighting. He tells the story with a gentle touch, never overwhelming the reader with fear and doubt. Instead he invites us in to their lives, to take a look around, to get to know them in these few short pages and feel like we've known them our entire lives.
The artwork is done in rough, broad ink strokes that at times look like woodcuts from days long ago. They capture Frederik, Cati, and her son and let us see their feelings at a glance. The stark black and white only emphasizes the story being told and helps us get more in tune with it. There are many scenes where there are no words, just the illustrations, and with only a glance you can tell how you're supposed to feel when viewing the image, even without looking at the preceding panels.
The story and the art speak for itself. It doesn't need me or anyone else trying to describe it in so few words. It's a powerful book that's a must read for anyone.
on February 26, 2011
Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story was $1 today at my local Borders. I finished reading its 190 pages in the store over my double-shot breve latte, but still bought it. It's true that it wasn't too much of a monetary commitment at one dollar, but the story and its storytelling are worth well more than 100 pennies.
The book's title hints at its content--yes, it's a love story, and a redemptive, patched, and optimistic one--and it's also a love story shot through with a positive diagnosis. The storyteller's girlfriend and young son are both HIV+.
Let me take a tangent for a moment to say that I teach creative writing to high school juniors and seniors, and I am constantly encouraging them to write about things that are real, and things that matter. I steer them well clear of clean-cut resolutions and Hallmark-endings because that kind of writing doesn't usually relate to real life. Real life, which is gritty and tough, needs to be dealt with in honesty. Picking it up, I hoped this book would be an example of this.
It was. The scenario is accessible no matter the reader's proximity to HIV; it's a story about real characters and real commitment during real issues. The relationship between the 2 lead characters is funny, somber, frightening, imperfect, and perfect--usually at the same times. The drawings are not shining works of polished art, but sketchy stylizations of a story that is both dark and light, tough and simple, rough and beautiful.
Halfway through the book, I noticed the protagonist's name mentioned in dialogue--Mr. Peeters--and I did a double-take at the book's cover. It turns out Frederik Peeters is both author and protagonist, and without meaning to, I'd picked up his memoir. I usually feel like memoirs are self-indulgent and arrogant, and avoid them pretty categorically, so I am glad that this one sneaked into my hands today. It was not self-indulgent at all, rather telling a real story in a real way that opens the pages up to the world (I had the same experience with another memoir I hope you'll read). I hope I am helping my students aim for this type of writing, and I hope my own reflects those qualities, whether it is fiction, essay, poetry, or whatnot.
A few final notes on appropriateness: As would be expected in a book dealing with HIV (or any STD), the characters' dealing with sex is a front-and-center topic--both in theory/theme and in visual portrayal. Because it's a graphic novel, there's some nudity at times in the black-and-white line drawings, but nothing that approaches pornographic or voyeuristic content. That said, I'd carefully consider age and maturity before handing the book casually to a younger reader; but the themes and actions would certainly merit some great conversations between a youth and mentor (Another topic, for example, is that although the book's theme is one of wholesome commitment and fidelity, the characters don't marry--conversation and instruction/advice/morality around that topic is also one that a mentor should be happy to approach and guide).
on December 16, 2011
I like the way the book is written, it never falls into a sense of pity or tragedy, despite easily having the doors more than wide open enough to do so. The outlook is refreshing. There are times where the translation seems like it's a bit simpler than it should be, but most of the time, it's great writing. The art is really nice too, but it's the story that really moves you. It's a quick read, but one I could see myself coming back to someday.
on February 9, 2011
A sweet, fun read with a heavy theme, Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story tells Frederik Peeters' own story of meeting and later falling for Cati, who has HIV, as does her three-year-old son. Cati and Fred have such a sweet, tender relationship, although the shadow of AIDS looms in the background, such as when the condom breaks and they visit the doctor, panicked.
This is such a touching graphic novel, but at the same time, not overwrought or over-sentimental when it comes to talking about AIDS. There is such honesty and affection in this graphic novel, as well as a surprisingly funny and frank doctor who helps them see past their situation and realise their true passion for each other. However, I stumbled my way though the final pages, where Fred has a philosophical dialogue with a woolly mammoth... perhaps the translation was at fault?
Peeters' beautiful illustrations, which make full use of very effective close-ups, speak volumes. Blue Pills is the first of the Swiss artist's works to be translated into English. Hopefully there will be more English translations of his other works soon!
on August 2, 2008
Given the tough (and not-so-commonplace) nature of the story - living and having a relationship with two individuals who are sero-positive (HIV-positive), I believe the story could not have been told in words alone as a memoir without getting melodramatic or overly-sentimental. But through the medium of a graphic novel, Frederik Peeters takes us on an interesting journey - through his own feelings and anxieties as life presents some interesting new questions of him through his relationship with Cati and her son.
Everything a good graphic novel should be. Creative drawing, a good story - full of anxiety, angst, dreams, surreal, love, pain: a tribute to life itself. One hopes things turn out well for Peeters and Cati.
also read the guardian article about "how to make a cartoon drama out of a crisis"
on February 8, 2012
Although it said it was used, the book was like new. Very interesting book to read and i like the fact that its like a comic book.