Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse was released in France in 2010, and it was a huge success there. 5 years later, we Anglophones are finally getting to see the book in our language. The main character in this book is Zoe, a young woman who works as a model at car shows. She hates her job because she gets leered at all day, and when she gets home to her stoned and negligent boyfriend things are not much better.
The fanny pack only adds to the creep factor.

One day while eating lunch, she catches the eye of a reclusive man and learns that he is an author. After they meet, she gets drawn into his life, which brings new passion, mystery, and a surprising romantic triangle. I know that this book might sound like a cheesy romantic comedy, but I think it also transcends the genre with its twists and turns. All I can say is that I felt very sucked into the story.

I did find the narrative very compelling and surprising, but the things I love most about this book is its artwork, with its geometric shapes and stylistic figures. Such work is deceptively simple looking, but the elegant lines easily communicate emotion and movement with grace and impact. I also enjoyed the interplay of the coloring, which varied from bright and garrulous to muted and reserved depending on the scene. I found myself lingering over many of the images and going back over them to drink in the linework and colors.

Pénélope Bagieu is an accomplished artist and graphic novelist in France, where she was awarded the high honor Chevalier des Arts et Lettres for her contribution to the world of art and literature. She has drawn many different comics, the most famous being Joséphine, and also had them adapted into films. She is something of a Renaissance woman, active as a musician drumming in a band and also blogging about her many works and travels here (in French). If you are interested in learning more about Bagieu and her work (and why wouldn't you be?), check out this great interview with her at The Mary Sue.

I really enjoyed this book, but reviews I have read have been mixed. Kayla Farber gushed, "I highly recommend this book. It’s so relevant and humorous and poignant." Nick Smith wrote "As I read this book, I was drawn into the story bit by bit and before I knew it I was hooked and when it was over I was sad.  Very sad.  Distraught even that there was no more to be had." Sam Quixote was more negative about the book, stating, "It’s well-drawn and quite well written but plotted like a cheap and trashy romance novel that floats off into fantasy-land by the end." Emily at Pop Kernal also had some reservations and concluded that although "this novel does not reside in my top lists, it was admittedly an enjoyable, light read for a Wednesday night."

Exquisite Corpse was published by First Second, who has a preview and much more here.

Thank you, Gina, for the review copy!

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