Page 45 Review by Stephen
I've never read any of the previous PAUL books but Mark was deeply enamoured, and now I know why: Rabagliati is a French-Canadian Andi Watson in thought and word and visual deed. Indeed this could almost be a prequel to LITTLE STAR, with Paul and Lucie expecting a baby, along with their friends Peter and France.
I know the titles sound as if they're from some early-learning Ladybird range (PAUL GOES ON HOLIDAY, PAUL TAKES A JOB et.c), but nothing could be further from these considered musings, memories and affectionate tributes to those Paul knows and loves. It's all about how we interact with one another and - as it is with Watson in BREAKFAST AFTERNOON, LITTLE STAR and SLOW NEWS DAY - work is high on the agenda, which is only natural given that we spend so much of our lives hard at it.
Paul's brother-in-law, Clément, for example, works in the aviation industry which used to be about a whole team of enthusiastic specialists using their innovative nous to design and build new Canadian aircraft. But then the Production Specialists - bean counters with no knowledge of or interest in the aviation industry - were brought in from outside, and the layoffs began in their hundreds, followed by further mechanisation, just-in-time production, inventory reduction and subcontracting abroad. Sound familiar?*
Similarly, Paul has seen his own work as a designer change dramatically over the last twenty years following the rise of the multipurpose Mac during the late 80s and 90s, with the consequent loss of jobs in the different disciplines of colour separation, typography etc.. The production office would be somewhere for the exuberant exchange of ideas, knowledge, projects or just human chit-chat. Now Paul works alone in his studio on his Apple Mackintosh. He doesn't even have to venture out for research: he do can do it all online.
These little histories of himself and his friends are sprinkled throughout the main narrative as Paul takes a break from work and leaves Montreal for the pastoral pleasures of fishing, where he and Lucie find Lucie's sister Monique, her husband Clément (quite the expert angler) and their two daughters already relaxing on the lakeside. Even here, however, it's surprisingly artificial, and the tranquillity is occasionally rocked by a lack of basic consideration or - in the case of a couple of young delinquents overindulged by their parents - by acts of shocking barbarity. Even the rain halts play for a while (though I have to disagree here - rain on water? I've been in heaven!), but none of this prepared me for what suddenly happens next. In hindsight it's foreshadowed, but I won't say with what, although I've done a little of it myself in this review.
What I will say is that within pages of beginning the book I had completely forgotten the existence of any prologue, let alone what it was (it centres around a church collection box), and it was only with the last two or three pages that I remembered...
So, very highly recommended and a new discovery for me. I shall have to go back and read the other PAUL books now.
*Immigration, historically, has never been the cause of mass unemployment. It's mechanisation - technology - and always has been since the Industrial Revolution.