Page 45 Review by Stephen
Have you never been ashamed to be like that?
Only love will save the world. Why would I be ashamed to love?
So very true, and so why indeed?
Yet one may forget that its all very well being an adult at Art School surrounded and affirmed by gay or at least open-minded by peers but when youre a 16-year-old surrounded by defensive and offensive, tittle-tattle classmates able to ostracise you at the drop of an unguarded hat using a single, well-aimed smear or sneer, your outlook is necessarily very different. Add in years of conditioning about what is right and what is wrong and parents less than embracing attitude towards Gay Pride marches they might see on telly (there is little worse than having to endure the news in the same room as vocally dismissive and hateful parents), and the suspicion that you might be gay doesnt come with the confidence or clarity to embrace, much less express, the undeniable and unqualified, positive aspects of love.
16-year-old Clementine slams the phone down on Emma on the role model she looks up to and the woman she is Iove with tears welling up, for she now feels ashamed of her shame.
This and so much more is perceptively observed and sympathetically communicated, but it is not the graphic novel its cover may lead you to suppose. It is not a squeaky clean love story between two equal women who found love early, celebrated and made the most of it.
It is in so many ways a tragedy, not least because Clementine is already dead as the story starts, bequeathing her blue diaries to Emma via a dubious mother and a venomous father who blames Emma explicitly for Clementines misery and death.
If I had known that we were running out of time
regrets Emma, gazing out of the Clementines family bedroom window, I wouldnt have wasted it then.
Were she still alive, Clementine would have thought exactly the same thing for the majority of this book witnesses both of them for different reasons resisting the potential for happiness staring them right in the face and so suffering terribly. But once again I must emphasise that, as this heart-breaking graphic novel makes most abundantly clear, it really isnt that easy.
Nor is this some simplistic, didactic, lesbian tract. Clementines initial crush, Thomas, her confidant Valentin, Valentins accidental, straight-male conquest
indeed all the men bar her culpably hateful father are lovely and loving, and far-from-fucked-up human beings. That really isnt Marohs focus. Her focus is on Clementines confusion: her initial, revelatory waking dreams about Emma, a moment of misapprehension resulting in elation then humiliation as she perceives it, her growing self-awareness about where her true affections lie, yet her complete paralysis in having the courage to vocalise those three most beautiful words in the English language: I love you.
Did I mention there were complications? There are complications.
Most familiar to me were the days on end waiting on the other end of the telephone, desperate for it to ring and afraid to go out lest you miss that vital call; that very first kiss and all it implied; those precious moments immersed in intimate conversations as if no one else existed in the whole wide world, and the yearning to snatch just one more. I dont think this is esoteric, either: whether gay or straight, there are so many recognition boxes that anyone can tick, including resentful or disapproving in-laws.
As to the art, its tender, grey shading is beautifully enhanced by that warmest colour blue: Thomas pullover, a stray balloon and Emmas hair most obviously; the wall at home which begins to glow empathically after the much longed-for phone call, Clementine leaning back on it in satisfied silence. Most strikingly: you know when you spot someone across a bar and Holy OMG?!? Yeah, that works so very well here, Emmas blue mane glimpsed over someone elses shoulder.
I also loved the tingling in Clementines crotch, the way total immersion in those phone calls and subsequent daydreams was represented by full, panel-free pages, Emma and Clementines figures suspended as if in a cashmere blanket. The single sex scene is delicately done with neither sensationalism nor any attempt at titillation. It is as attractive as it should be and erotic too, but its successful emphasis is on joyously surrendered intimacy.
I wish this was a happier book but so it very much goes, Im afraid.