So yesterday I was in an Indigo bookstore browsing, and I saw the graphic novel sign, and then “Literary Graphic Novels”. I checked and there were copies of Jeff Lemire’s Collected Essex County, the book my daughter had given me for Mothers’ Day.
I’d asked for it after someone who teaches graphic novels had recommended it to me. I’d read the Maus series a few years ago, but few other graphic novels, even though I knew they were growing in popularity, even though I’d collected comics as a kid. (At that time “regular comics” cost $.10 and Classics, $.15. I was a canny trader, insisting on two regulars for any Classics, and had a good-sized collection. But that’s another story!)
I read Essex County in two sittings and was entranced. It was a truly rich read, full of images and patterns of thought I immediately recognized. And I recognized so much because of my own cultural background:
- My grandparents were farmers in rural Ontario (though not Essex County);
- I live with someone who always watches the hockey playoffs;
- I used to coach a college intramural hockey team;
- I’ve met women like the indomitable county nurse, who keeps on helping out no matter what is happening in her own life; and
- I’ve read literary (all text) Canadian gothics before.
I liked everyone in the stories, and I could understand why they did what they did. I admired the story structuring and the moving back and forth in time, revealing hidden connections just at the right point. I found the black-and-white images haunting and powerful.
The CBC’s Canada Reads included Essex County – http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/2011/nominees/essex-county.html and I highly recommend Lemire’s Collected Essex County for both its narrative and visual elements.