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Ordinary Victories Paperback – May 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
This graphic novel won top honors at France's Cannes-for-comics, Angoulême, and it's easy to see why. French cartoonist Larcenet has created a leisurely story about Marc, a 20-something photographer, who is embroiled in crisis in both his life and art. His artwork is not satisfying him; his elderly parents and working-class childhood are weighing on him; and his crippling panic attacks have become more frequent. On the other hand, he falls in love and hatches a new photography project aimed at exploring and redeeming his shipyard roots and ailing father. But this is not just another coming-of-age tale. Through his characters, Larcenet presents a vision of French politics, history and society, weaving all of these strands together to create a multilayered book. The dialogue is insightful and sometimes painfully realistic; the artwork firmly roots readers in the French landscape and milieu while maintaining a cartoonish distance with the character designs and expressions. Marc is rarely pleasant and not terribly likable, but his conflicting feelings about love and family, politics and class, and art and money are universally recognizable; the reader respects him even without liking him. The complex characterization and breadth of scope make this a compelling, insightful story that rewards careful attention. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* After many years, photojournalist Marc is quitting therapy--and Paris. He still has debilitating panic attacks, but he needs to refuel his creative drive. He moves to the countryside, where an elderly neighbor befriends him. In the wake of an unpleasant encounter with another neighbor, who objects to Marc's trespassing cat, Marc meets Emily, an attractive veterinarian, and starts an affair with her. When Marc visits his parents, his father reveals that he is refusing treatment for Alzheimer's. Marc launches a pet project, for which he has already obtained a place in a gallery exhibition, of photographing workers at the shipyard from which his father retired. Brother George, his wife, and their baby visit. The first prints in the project dismay Marc, and he starts over. He and Emily scrap and decide to look for a place together. Several developments resolve by book's end; meanwhile, Larcenet realizes Marc's world in a wealth of particulars--Marc and George's brotherly routines, the elderly friend's link to Marc's father, the obnoxious photographer who is the star of the exhibition, and many more. The combination of cartoony but individualized characters and backdrops ranging from blank spaces to near-photographic outdoor settings, and the division of major narrative sections with single-page, bichromatic montages of photorealistic portraits and interior details heighten the sense that this is a genuine and consequential graphic novel. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Right now I'm reading it for the second time and enjoying it even more than I did the first time. The pictures are really beautiful and so simple. After having finished it the first time I remember crying because I had been so touched. The story is simple. It is so every day and probably speaks to something within everyones life. I'm most impressed with the artwork and the truly authentic as well as humorous at time, dialogues and relationships that unfold within the story.
A real gem to read and re-read.
Marco doesn't know where he is going to or what he wants to do next. He has spent the last eight years receiving therapy and working as a photographer, but he doesn't want to do that any more. He stops seeing his therapist, and now has panic attacks, lives way outside town and he has a girlfriend.
His girlfriend would like to move their relationship to the next level and get a place together, but Marco just wants things to remain the same. Unfortunately, as he discovers, things don't remain the same and even the things that you think you are familiar with have a tendency to change .
This is book one of a four part series of books which are currently being translated into English from their original French. It is an interesting story and I am hoping to read the others. There is so much to be revealed about Marco and I want to know what happens to Him.
The artwork here is excellent. I really enjoyed the graphics and the colours and I think the text was just sufficient to convey the story. This is well worth reading and I definitely want to read the others.
Copy provided via net galley in exchange for an unbiased review.
Marco was a photographer and spent enough time taking photos of dead bodies, that he's found himself in therapy. He's tired of that, and really doesn't want to work, so he moves to a remote village to try to get by. He takes up with a cat named Adolf and gets to know the quirky neighbors. There is the neighbor with the shotgun and the private property signs, and there is the weird, silent one who just kind of shows up and eats Marco's food. Marco also meets Emilie and she challenges him to rejoin the world around him.
The story feels like non-fiction almost. The category is definitely drama with a bit of humor thrown in. The art style feels a bit weird for this story, but I found myself feeling for this character, so I wouldn't mind a chance to find out what happens next with him.
I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Europe Comics and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this graphic novel.
Marc is in a state of ennui, debilitating panic attacks and transformation. He is not happy with his life and he hides this unhappiness initially by going all over the world and taking photographs of people far worse off than him: transforming this impulse into art. But when this fails him and he finds himself in a romantic relationship, he realizes he is in the process of change. In the background of this story, set in France, is also the still very real ghost of the French-Algerian War. It affects his brother who is married to an Algerian woman, his father who had been a soldier in that war, the very politics of France as the right-wing are depicted coming into power, and even Marc himself when he realizes some stark truths about some of the people he gets to know and also himself and his own views on life: namely, his sheer terror of it. Marc ends up having to make some decisions about what it is really important in his existence and just what kind of art he wants to depict from his own life.
Ordinary Victories was originally split into two separate books, but here they are united into the single narrative that they are. Sometimes, the translation from its original French is a little choppy but all in all it portrays what is going on very well. Readers might be confused by references to French and Continental art and philosophy. Certainly, I was confused by a section in which various profiles of famous people are depicted. I still do not know who they all are and their presence is not explained but placed there as what seems to be a given: as something the reader-audience should know already from cultural exposure.
However, the art is excellent. Manu Larcenet seemingly takes a cue from Herge and creates very elemental cartoon figures that have very specific and distinctive features. The colourist Patrice Larcenet is also brilliant at using bright colours and different shades of colour. Two scenes come to mind where Marco is talking with his brother and his father outside and you can see that even while they retain their cartoonish shapes, the light and shadow plays on them as they would any shape in our own three-dimensional world. There is a definite focal point in the work between the realistic and the iconic that functions well. The black and red jagged depiction of Marc's own panic attacks are well done too: leaving you with that feeling of just how jarring they are and why he needs to arrange his life around their awfulness.
I'm not sure if the origins of Marc's attacks are ever really explained, and the ending of the entire story does seem very abrupt somehow, but in some ways it also works out in a way. I think the best way that this work can be summed up is with the quote that Larcenet uses at the beginning of the book: "You could not say they were slaves / But from there to say they lived ..." This phrase itself says a lot about society and though I wonder at the translation as well, it does suit the content and structure of this book. I can see why it won the top award in the Angouleme comics event and it is definitely worth reading.