Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review: Tamara Drewe

Posy Simmonds's Tamara Drewe (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin, 2008, 136 pages, $16.95) is an off-beat drama that strolls along like a leisurely walk through the English countryside, at least until people start dying.

The story takes place over the course of four seasons at a writer's retreat on a farm, where the arrival of hot young columnist Tamara Drewe and her rock star boyfriend disturbs the affairs of the couple that owns the farm, their handyman, a writer who farts around in one of the guest houses, and two of the local high school girls. The men are captivated by Tamara while the high school girls obsess over her boyfriend. People sneak around, screw around, get engaged, break off engagements, and dance around wearing pilfered dresses. It's your typical English relationship drama.

The book is not a typical comic book, however, as most of the pages have large chunks of text dispersed in and around the artwork. It's more comic book than illustrated novel, though, and the text does not interrupt the flow of the story. The art itself is quite nice to look at, with solid cartooning that perfectly conveys the emotions of the characters, and plenty of shots of beautiful British boonies.

(click to enlarge ... did you think I meant something else by "beautiful British boonies"?)

The story does sort of take a left turn near the end, but although those events are surprising, they don't feel altogether out of place, perhaps because Simmonds does such a good job creating real, believable people, and the action flows naturally from their decisions.

(click to enlarge)

This is an accomplished, well-crafted work. I very nearly picked this as one of my top ten comics for 2008, and I recommend seeking it out.

By the way, Simmonds originally serialized this story at the Guardian's website, and you can still read the whole thing here. (Interestingly, it looks like Simmonds has reworked quite a bit for the print version -- I compared one randomly-chosen page from both versions, and found differences in colors, facial expressions, and dialogue.) You can buy the book from Amazon here: Tamara Drewe

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

1 comment:

  1. "Simmonds does such a good job creating real, believable people..."

    But it was actually Thomas Hardy who created these real, believable people. The main characters, at least. Although with different names. :)