Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #16: Sandcastle by Peeters & Levy

I toyed with the idea of leaving a single, blurb-like line here, and calling it done: "a masterful graphic novel, in which one day at the beach encompasses all of society and all of life," perhaps, or "the waves may knock down every sand castle on the beach, but time will not wither the subtle beauty and deep human knowledge of this Sandcastle." Who knows: I may yet end this "review" without saying anything more about the book.

I picked up Sand Castle at a library five days ago. There's no description on the outside: the back cover continues the image on the front, all sea and sky. And the book inside contains no descriptive copy or illuminating review quotes -- it dives right into the narrative after the usual front matter. So I read this knowing only one thing about it: it was, in some way, the work of Frederik Peeters, whose Blue Pills I read (and reviewed for ComicMix) back in 2008. After reading the graphic novel proper, I hit the biographies of the authors, and learned that Peeters was the illustrator here, working for a script by documentary filmmaker Pierre Oscar Levy -- Levy's first work for comics.

It's set on a secluded beach, just inland from the cliffs of a seaside, where erosion and luck have created a perfect little bowl of water and sand and air and life. And, one day, a number of people go there: first a mysterious young woman, observed skinny-dipping by a serious Algerian man passing through. Then two families arrive: parents, children, one aged grandmother. A young couple join them -- all coming separately, none knowing each other. They squabble, and the reader expects one type of story.

But Sandcastle is not the expected story. It moves into genre in a way I wouldn't dream of revealing -- not even which genre -- and is remorseless as time itself in working out the details of that genre element. This is not a happy book, but it's a strong one, full of thought and humanity and love and fear and death. If you find it on a shelf, as I did, pick it up and read it. It's worth the time and space in your head.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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