Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I'm thirty-one, I feel lost, I'll have but one life, and it's slipping through my fingers like a torrent."
Camille is thirty-one. Without an apartment of her own, she's virtually broke and she feels she's wasted her ten years since college. Buffeted by wind and rain, she struggles to make progress, and in any case she has lost any sense of direction. She's rudderless.
"I've been here for months and I feel like I haven't found anything. It's there, right in front of me, but I can't see it. I feel myopic...
"What sense does it make to be turning up every stone without knowing what you're looking for."
She's not alone.
In this remarkable graphic novel with its complex, intricate structure, we're introduced to so many seemingly unconnected individuals all of whom - to one extent or another - are missing someone or missing something, awakening to their age and mortality, and watching others go about their business seemingly with purpose while wondering where their own lies. There is so much fear and anxiety that they are useless or (worse) mediocre: that they haven't achieved anything, are failing to achieve anything, and never will achieve anything.
"You think it's too late?" asks middle-aged Vincent of his much-missed brother turned priest.
"Too late for what?"
"To stop playing Ping-Pong."
Like Alessandro Sanna's THE RIVER, Pedrosa's EQUINOXES is presented in four seasons beginning in autumn and culminating in summer, each with their distinct colour palettes, textures, line treatment and weather conditions. There is ever such a lot of wind and rain in autumn and winter, drawn and coloured in an impeccable low light. It is difficult to forge through and obscures the vision.
Each begins with a silent sequence set in the Neolithic Age. Autumn's depicts a young hunter surviving the curiosity of a predatory tiger by holding her or his breath underwater for lung-burstingly long time. Of course, like the tiger, you don't know that's what's happening; you can only the smallest of ripples on the other side of a partially submerged tree. Eventually the tiger slinks off, and the youngster emergences onto the tree trunk, exhausted but alive. The second shows the lone hunter pursuing multiple tracks that have successfully crossed ice, but it proves too thin and cracks, stranding the youngster on one side while the tracks continue on over the horizon.
Believe it or not, like everything else in this graphic novel, these four sequences will prove connected to each other and to the whole.
Louis lives in a remote rural home where he's helped out with practicalities like his internet connection by younger lodger Antoine. They share a political past of protest which Louis is now weary of, while former protégée Catherine Vallet is France's newly appointed Minister of Sustainable Development and the Environment. She hasn't contacted Louis. Louis visits his son or, more accurately, his son's graveside (1951-1963), sees fresh flowers and asks him, "Has your mom been by?"
Samir Benjelloun is approaching retirement, but is being dispatched to the east of France to help dig the new Morteuil Airport. Its development is being protested against.
Vincent is that middle-aged orthodontist, divorced from Christine who does her best to stay friends, but his cantankerousness doesn't make it easy. At weekends he picks his fifteen-year-old daughter up from Christine's city apartment and brings her back to his modern coastal villa. They visit a jumble sale. Vincent grumbles that Pauline is a pain, shows no interest in anything important and that her friends have minimal IQs. But actually Pauline is paying attention in a way that will surprise Vincent, and is beginning to make her first tentative steps into the discovery of art and, with it, herself.
We know this because our first real encounter in this entire graphic novel is between Pauline and a charcoal portrait in an art gallery. A woman with a camera snaps a portrait of Pauline, her face a picture of uncertain curiosity.
The woman with the camera turns out to be Camille. There are dozens more connections which will become clear as the story progresses (I have three A4 sheets of paper covered in scribbles and arrows criss-crossing like a demented cat's cradle which long went awry), but that's the last of one I'm giving you for we only discover Camille's name, let alone anything about her, much later on. She and her camera, however, prove a vital part of the book's heart and structure, for not only does each season end with an insight into her world - one of painful loss, and a resistance to making contact or opening herself up at all - but also each snapshot she takes comes with its own attendant revelations about her intuitively chosen subjects.
There are three or four per chapter, some more unexpected than others, and together they build up a broader picture of perspectives which share much common ground.
Pedrosa deploys a dazzling variety of illustrative techniques within each season which affect the level of intimacy we see in front of us. There is, for example, an extended sequence in a log cabin high up in the forested hills at night in similar style to the Jeff Lemire-like cover, in which Vincent continues his deeply troubled exploration with brother Damien about what matters in life. Stripped to this visual minimalism they finally begin to get to the heart of the matter.
By contrast an early sequence between Louis and Antoine shows a masterful knowledge of body forms, body weight and body balance. Hands hang, clothes hang; shoulders are hunched over with age or are so clearly supported by spine.
With spring comes with a richness of colour after bleak winter, and a waxier treatment. It seems to me that's where the honesty begins between individuals here. People receive visitors and begin to relax outside.
"Memory's not fair, is it?" asks elderly Cecile of Louis.
No, as we shall see, in its erosion over time, memory robs us of what we would wish to remember forever, yet plagues us with the things we cannot forget yet. Our memories and minds can make us so hard on ourselves.
"I'd like to be forgiven for my mistakes," confesses Camiile, "but nobody can do that. You have to be satisfied with your own forgiveness."