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Irmina Hardcover – April 12, 2016
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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"A comic of substance, real feeling and expression" Paul Gravett, Editor of 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die
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Barbara Yelin came across her grandmother's diary and was fascinated by both her story and how she changed. In the early 1930s, German-born Irmina is living in London and taking classes to be a foreign secretary. Her world is expanded when she meets a young black man from Barbados who is studying at Oxford. She fights against discrimination on his behalf and slowly falls in love. After Hitler has been in power a few years, her family has a set back and can't keep sending her money. She returns to Germany. And before and during the war, she changes. For the worse.
It is impressive that Ms. Yelin was able to look at and portray her family with such searing honesty. Her grandmother had some bad luck but also made a number of bad choices and rough moral compromises. It shows how average Germans were complicit by both their willful ignorance and accepting silence. There are a few scenes that illustrate how regular Germans benefited from Jews "disappearing."
There is an outstanding essay by a historian at the end of the book that ties up the story with historical context and analysis. It makes an already fantastic story that much greater. Despite living in historical times, people's lives are marked by graduation, first job, first apartment, marriage, births and deaths. This story depicts all of those events with the backdrop of the German fall.
The story is brilliantly crafted: with just a few words the author conjures up characters so real that you think you know them and the illustrations, perfectly evocative of their time, are so beautiful that any panel could be framed and appreciated as a standalone piece of art.
The story and pictures together weave a mesmerising spell that enchants and informs - the graphic novel at its absolute best.
I read the book on Kindle, which I don't advise, as it doesn't do justice to the wonderful artwork and was extremely frustrating to pinch the images open and closed in order to see detail - at time of writing it's not available on Comixology. I'm looking forward to receiving the print version.
I have no doubt that Irmina will go down as one the the greatest graphic novels of all time.