Now I’m not a die-hard graphic novel fan, but I know what I like. And when I find a graphic novel that I get excited about, it’s a good day. A colleague recommended this title to me and I think it’s a brilliant example of the genre at its best: quirky, distinctive, and original, leaving you with a fresh perspective on the world.
It’s the tale of 141 Rottin Road, a dilapidated Victorian house divided into flats. Into this mildly seedy environment Barbara, a young cosmetics salesgirl, bravely enters, to take up residence in Flat 3. Her fellow housemates are: a young man who retouches pictures of models; an older woman who runs a diet club; a man who is only attracted to women who are dying or disfigured; a woman who has been there so long she literally blends into the background; and a voluptuous hedonist. How their lives intersect, and how they ended up there in the first place, forms the core of the story.
It’s funny in a dark and twisted way, but there is compassion for all the characters, as Fransman reveals their back stories. The plot has some surprising twists, and the shocking ending is tempered with a moment of genuine poignancy. It’s sexually explicit, but not in a titillating way – there’s a sense of acceptance, of showing the reader that behind every desire and deviance there’s a human being, desperate to be seen. And the stylised illustrations match the quirkiness of the plot and characters perfectly. I think it’s an excellent example of how a graphic novel can express so much without using as many words as a conventional novel – how the form and the content work in harmony to convey the pure ideas of the author.
Definitely one that will find a permanent place on my bookshelves! Rating: ****
Square Peg, 2012, ISBN 9780224086813