Friday, December 02, 2022

Limited Edition by Aude Picault

Claire knows what she wants. A skilled neonatal nurse in her early 30s, living in some French city, she's dating but wants to find a guy she can settle down with - someone who doesn't run away at the first sign of domesticity. She doesn't say - to herself or anyone else - that she wants babies, but she works with them all day long and clearly doesn't want to give up the opportunity for babies yet.

All around her are friends and family, men and women, in their own relationships. Claire doesn't comment on those, except sometimes to call out really obvious issues, and the narration never does. But the book is clear-eyed, and has an aim, even if that aim is not clear to the reader for a long time.

That's Limited Edition, Aude Picault's bande dessinee - the French original was Idèal standard in 2017; the English-language edition came a year later, translated by Matt Madden - which looks for a long time like it will be the story of how Claire finds love and happiness.

It is a story about finding what you want, but Picault has a wider view: Claire needs to be clearer about what she really wants, and about what she's willing to accept. What she'll settle for, what seems to be great but turns out to be not good enough. What she can do to change things, and the things she can't change.

Picault never says this, but the one thing you can never change is other people. Each of us can change ourselves, or try to. We can adjust how we react to others, and push others in a direction. But we can't change them, and we can't make them do what we want.

So Claire does find a long-term boyfriend, Franck, who has a lot of the things she's looking for. But he also has a lot of things she's not as happy with - or, perhaps, she notices more and more those sides of him as time goes on.

Limited Edition is about sexism, in a way: there's a constrained sense of the roles of men and women that most of the men and some of the women live by, and several of them talk about it explicitly. I don't know if Claire explicitly realizes that, but the list of recommended reading at the end makes it clear Picault certainly does.

And Claire makes the right choices, even when they go against what she thought she wanted.

Picault tells this story in a lovely airy style, mostly thin lines with pops of shades of that yellow color on the cover. Her people are realistic in their bodies and dialogue, even when we wish they'd be a little better and more wonderful.

I'd previously read Picault's slightly later book Amalia, which has a similar tone and feel: Picault seems like a creator who is willing to let stories flow organically and trust the reader to figure things out. Limited Edition feels even more pointed and specific than Amalia; I'd recommend this as a great first book for anyone interested in Picault's work.

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