Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Book 9 – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

By Alison Bechdel

This critically acclaimed graphic novel was highly recommended by Olman’s sister. Olman then picked up a copy in TO, read it and lent it to his aunt, who then passed it back onto me when we were staying at her lovely cottage by Georgian Bay, Ontario.

I very much agree with the first half of Olman’s review, but understand the other half is based on his own taste and perspective.

The premise may not sound terribly inviting to some: an autobiographical graphic novel about a queer girl growing up in a tragically dysfunctional family. But Bechdel’s story is, nevertheless, wonderfully and exceptionally told. Just flipping through the pages, the casual peruser may feel that there is nothing particularly remarkable about the eloquent illustrations. And even though the narrative structure is fairly nonlinear throughout, at heart Bechdel uses the framing device of “author looking back at her past” in order to posthumously reconcile with her father, who never came out of the closet.

Once you start reading, however, you soon realize that Fun Home is a rare combination, where both mediums, image and text, are executed with harmonious insight and beauty by the same author/artist. Bechdel's various accounts: of her growing up in a Victorian-style funeral home (hence the title), her awkward relationship with her father, her obsessive-compulsive diary entries that become more and more indecipherable as she's gripped by adolescent uncertainties, flashbacks of family trips to New York City, her coming-out in college and yes, even all those literary references... they all made for a fascinating, engrossing, heartfelt, moving and very personal story.

Douglas Wolk writes an in-depth review that really does this work justice, if you’re considering checking this one out. I myself would certainly recommend it!


Buzby said...

Your review makes this graphic novel really inviting even though I have, in recent years, been quite turned off by the proliferation of graphic novels. I will definitely check it out.

Olman Feelyus said...

You will definitely recognize the character of the protagonist and narrator. She didn't actually go there, but she could have well been a Reedie.