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A Taste of Chlorine Hardcover – International Edition, August 22, 2011
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"This is one of those books that I want to say lots about in order to convince you to read it but find myself rendered slightly speechless by its simplicity, its beauty and its sheer ability to move the reader. It is easily the best graphic novel I have read this year and for quite some time. A bit like reading a perfectly honed short story or novella. I can't imagine a person who wouldn't find their life enriched by reading it." * Just William's Luck (blog) * "If shades of turquoise and aquamarine are your thing, then you will find this book extraordinarily beautiful. Low on dialogue, it's Vives's remarkable illustrations that draw you on... It's like watching an extremely watery silent movie: evocative, dreamlike, mysterious. Never before has the monotony of swimming lengths seemed so appealing." * The Observer * "A book so beautiful you'll want to jump right in." * Metro * "Bastien Vives is attuned to the vulnerability of adolescent physiques and feelings. He bathes these young bodies in swathes of turquoise, shifting from flesh-coloured outlines above the surface to grey-green abstractions beneath, transforming the swimming pool into a special space, filled with hopes and desires." * Times Literary Supplement * "Every once in a while, a graphic novel comes along that warrants the kind of attention more typically bestowed upon the likes of the Booker shortlist. Bastien Vives's A Taste of Chlorine is one such book. Vives manages to combine the unspoken yearning of Lost in Translation with the low-key detail of a film-maker such as Tom McCarthy. What's more, the art is such that you'll frequently find yourself stopping to admire the beauty of a single frame. Highly recommended." * Independent on Sunday *
About the Author
Bastien Vives is a graphic novelist and illustrator. He is the author of several highly-acclaimed graphic novels, including The Butcher and Hollywood in January. Chlorine won the 'Essential Revelation' prize at the Angouleme Festival in 2009. He lives in Paris.
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The story is very simple indeed. A lad of perhaps 15 goes swimming in this pool each Wednesday. He becomes friendly with another teen-ager he meets there, one who has inexplicably given up competitive swimming and who gives him pointers on swimming technique. Sometimes she doesn't show; once she turns up at the pool with an older chap. After being asked a serious question by the lad, she mouths to him underwater an unintelligible reply. That's all, really, but a faint air of mystery underlying the events gives the story an unexpected depth.
The artwork is distinctive and well-considered, coloured with a limited palette suited perfectly to the setting. And the subtly-told story is a welcome change from the full-on portrayals of angst, of life-changing first love, or of coming-of-age moments more commonly found in comics--and in novels, for that matter--with teen-aged protagonists. It's a book I'll probably re-read several times in the future and for the present would recommend without reservation.
3 1/2 stars.