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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback – June 5, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys). Fun Home refers both to the funeral parlor, where he put makeup on the corpses and arranged the flowers, and the family's meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, where he liked to imagine himself a 19th-century aristocrat. The art has greater depth and sophistication that Dykes; Bechdel's talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man's secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter's burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide. The recursively told story, which revisits the sites of tragic desperation again and again, hits notes that resemble Jeanette Winterson at her best. Bechdel presents her childhood as a "still life with children" that her father created, and meditates on how prolonged untruth can become its own reality. She's made a story that's quiet, dignified and not easy to put down. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
That Alison Bechdel kept a childhood journal made Fun Home a perhaps more true-to-life project than it would have been if she'd relied on memory alone. A powerful graphic novel-memoir, Fun Home documents Bechdel's childhood experiences and coming-of-age as a woman and lesbian. At its center lies her heartbreaking relationship with her distant father, which produces emotionally complex and poignant reflections and clean, bitonal images. While detractors cited confusing chronology and repetition of events, literary buffs enjoyed the challenging references to Albert Camus, James Joyce, and classical mythology. In the end, Fun Home "is an engrossing memoir that does the graphic novel format proud" (New York Times).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
It is a wonderful representation of the messy, heartbreaking truth of families, brought together with beautiful images and gripping storytelling. A fantastic read that will leave you breathless for more.
This story is of course autobiographical, focusing on Bechdel and her father. I won't say more about the plot, just in case you want to avoid any hint of a spoiler.
I rate this five stars because the story was very compelling and interesting, but in truth I'd knock it down half a star if I could. There were times when Bechdel chooses to use a fancy word when a simple one would suffice, which isn't to say someone shouldn't have a good vocabulary, only that sometimes it pulled me out of the story. If the narration feels like a distraction, I feel like it's an unsuccessful sentence or paragraph. I also felt that the story fell apart a bit toward the end, relying too heavily on James Joyce's Ulysses and losing some of the sharp focus that the early and middle chapters had. However, these are small criticisms within a much larger picture, one that deserves plenty of praise from readers and critics. The only book I could compare it with is Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Both are tremendous, using the form of the graphic novel to support the tale and present it in the most effective manner. Even if you wouldn't normally think to read a book in this format, I highly recommend this.
This graphic novel has so much depth. With literary and cross-discipline references, it can be a daunting read. But I promise you those references truly open up the book.
Upon my first read, I made notes as I went, of places where I wanted to go back. And now that I'm going through again, I am in awe of Bechdel's writing. There's hidden details in the references, in the details about her father, the vocabulary, and things I did not put together the first time.
The parallels, the crosses, the convergence and divergence. When people joke that "graphic novels aren't literature," I want to point them at this book.
The single-volume memoir's frames are engaging, and lend much to the story. Without them I don't think the prose could stand alone nearly as well. And I think that's what makes Fun Home work so well in this form.
Bechdel planned this graphic novel with such precision that the larger picture of woven memories, family details, and conclusions, wrapped in literary and philosophical references creates an impressive work that lends a voice to the deceased, Bruce Bechdel. All of these details allow for the reader to draw their own conclusions while also growing with Alison, and feeling her emotions grip you right through the page.
I would recommend Fun Home to anyone that wants to experience another memoir in such a unique format. Don't be afraid to highlight or mark spots where you might not understand. I promise it's worth it.