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Tamara Drewe Paperback – October 8, 2008
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From The New Yorker
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Paperback : 136 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0547154127
- ISBN-13 : 978-0547154121
- Dimensions : 9 x 0.5 x 10.25 inches
- Publisher : Mariner Books; 1st edition (October 8, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,421,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A wonderful combination of prose and top-flight cartooning, Tamara Drewe is a story full of flawed, yet intriguing characters whose foibles actually make them more interesting. The titular character is herself more of a catalyst in the story than she is a protagonist, an approach which keeps Tamara at a distance from the reader: we are as curious and fascinated by this woman as the characters in the story whose lives are changed by her very presence (indirectly in some cases, more directly in others). It's a romance story, or rather, the story of a number of overlapping romances, but more importantly, it's a story about identity, and the exploration of same. How do we define ourselves? How do others affect that definition? How much does our concern about how others define us actually impair our ability to define ourselves in the first place? It's heady stuff, yet handled in such a light, breezy manner as to take the reader by surprise; you won't be thinking about the larger theme of the piece until you're done...the narrative itself is that compelling.
Elegantly drawn and flawlessly written, Tamara Drewe reminds us what a tragedy it is that both the US and UK comics markets let "comics for girls" die off decades ago, yet offers an encouraging template for a potential return of the form. Top marks.
But the real triumph is Simmonds' great way with dialogue and voice. Each of the characters comes across as a vivid person, with their own distinct emotions, point of view, and verbal quirks. Simmonds does an excellent job of combining prose with visuals, in the process creating what was, for me, a new approach to storytelling.
If you're looking for a graphic novel that has real depth, I recommend starting here.
Top reviews from other countries
Simmonds draws, paints and inks very nicely. I like her style. Using a muted palette of blues and greens, accented with other colours here and there, she creates very pleasing pictures. She uses these to show action, while using prose to convey the thoughts of her characters. This works very well, giving some depth to what she shows us. Her main characters are distinctive and expressive, and mostly types that one can "get" immediately.
The story is, of course, a vague retelling of Far From The Madding Crowd, set in a modern English village. Simmonds is relentless in using her characters to make pointed comments about life in a village, often using these opinions to give her characters their essential attitudes and personalities. She reserves particular venom for rich weekenders from the city who, having descended upon and bought their way into such villages for their idyllic appearance, have turned what was a hard-working village into a mishmash of suburbia and weekend retreat. Her attack on these people made surprisingly satisfying reading, as I have seen this happen in my once-rural hometown. The story flags a little in parts, especially around the middle pages, as Simmonds presents some exposition that sets up the last part of the plot. Overall though, it was non-stop and rather sharp storytelling.
Simmonds' sense of humour, her artistic style, and her tremendous ability to combine words and pictures in an adult, thoughtful and entertaining way, make this a great page-turner. I know that many people scoff at graphic novels as juvenile and a bit of lightweight junk for the lazy, but that view misses the point of the graphic novel. One of the great things about them is that they get on with it - something a great many authors should learn to do. I enjoyed it a great deal, and have ordered more of her work.