Page 45 Review by Stephen
This is a book so bursting with love that it will make your hearts soar!
If understanding and kindness is what you crave, I present you with 225 pages of pure passion initially presented in the most heavenly, cohesive coupling of purples and gold.
There will be many more couplings to come and, as the brilliant Baroness Benjamin once brightly advised, "It might have some sexy scenes". I can guarantee it, and each one will prove unashamedly joyful.
Just look at the cover with its natural, softly shaded flesh and flowing tresses as resplendent as Sandro Botichelli's 'Birth Of Venus', the innocence of its daisy chain and the rosary beads broken - but why?
"They say what's most important is loving those around you.
"You must love your neighbour... but not like that.
"Can't be having that... because it's wrong... right?"
It's mixed messages time for our Marie Lovitt, a girl who instinctively understands what's most important in life and acts accordingly: she spreads love wherever she goes!
In addition to her nature, there is also her nurture: the lessons she learns from what she is told. Here's Marie being taught at Catholic school, aged roughly 12, 14 and 16. Everything below is a quote until I speak to you again.
Marie was a very special girl.
She loved to learn.
"Curie was of the opinion that 'Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.'"
She loved to understand.
"You must love one another as God has loved you."
And she loved to LOVE.
"Please copy down the diagram and add the correct labels for the male and female reproductive organs."
She had a kind soul, dedicated to understanding people.
Unfortunately, most people misunderstood her.
Right, I'm back. Sorry about that - translating such carefully crafted comics to prose isn't always easy.
So far, so good but I mentioned mixed messages and unfortunately Marie's Catholic parents perceive things quite differently. To them the emphatically unqualified 'Love Thy Neighbour' comes with some pretty specific exceptions.
They're more concerned with what their neighbours will think - but only about their daughter. To their promiscuous son's flagrant bedroom antics, right under their noses, they turn a blind eye. "Boys will be boys" is a phrase that will be bandied about all too often here.
Instead Marie is constantly chastised for not being "presentable" or "ladylike" enough, a superficiality and sexism which will extend to her teacher-trainer once she's left school, and those propping up the bar where she'll find herself serving at to make ends meet.
"No one wants a sad pair of tits at the bar, yeah?"
Before we return to all the love I promised you, we should get this out of the way first then I won't burden you with it to again: if you think the chauvinism's bad, brace yourself for racist outbursts, some very harsh and hypocritical recriminations, more poisonous, parental words and an abrupt change in colour palette.
The wonderful thing about Marie, though, is her resilience, her complete lack of superficiality, her compassion at school and her unfaltering, unhesitating urge to constantly reach out regardless of what her classmates might think. This extends first to Colin who jumps his own hurdles without the need of much help (they begin in the bed), to the more troubled William who has hidden depths (they convene in the changing rooms, appropriately enough), and to dear Agnes. They end up spending a lot of quality time in the chapel.
The other wonderful thing about Marie is her complete lack of shame. I don't mean that she is shameless, for that has come to mean something else entirely - Marie doesn't even know what a "slut" is. Instead she has a love of luxuriating in both spiritual and physical pleasure of her friends and simply cannot conceive that there is anything wrong with that, especially when it is done with love. Without a sense of shame, the Catholic nuns have nothing to use against her. She disarms them of their best weapon.
And so we come to Prannath whom Marie meets - still early on in the book - after leaving school in 1965 in order to teach, and this is where the colour scheme comes into its own. This is where it truly shines, Marie's golden hair radiating in both the sun and the rain from which they shelter together under his yellow umbrella. Both hair and umbrella blaze like charms against all adversity including the elements which tower above and rage around them. I cannot conceive a more romantic image.
The bruised berry purple of the storm clouds and the thrilling sense of movement remind me of the very first page of Alessandro Sanna's THE RIVER.
It's in this same park that Prannath courts Marie with twinkling eyes seen through gold-rimmed glasses whose broad frames reflect his openness and honesty; although if you think he's averse to a little light mischief then you are mistaken! His body language is endearingly coy then increasingly confident as they play chess together in such softly dappled light under a canopy of leaves.
And, oh, Marie, the smile you take away with you along with his treasured umbrella! Utterly smitten but barely daring to hope, she's biting her lip, eyes gently closed with dreams of a future, even perhaps in prayer.
Mouths are one of Sarson's many fortes as an artist. Obviously there's the body language and oh so many body forms. You wait until you see from behind an old friend bunched over a bedside in a great big, smothering hug! Zero elegance - because who gives a damn about appearances? - but maximum eloquence about what matters more. Obviously there are also the eyes which are ever so expressive. There are so many carefully considered perspectives too, as when reaching up with a helping hand, or looking down over an empty, indifferent, straight-lined, conformist suburb very early on as a heart is broken and someone is left far behind.
But the contours of the mouths are like nothing I've quite seen before, a long way from the many shortcut clichés so-easily absorbed from traditional sources. I strongly suspect that Sarson has been modelling from herself in the mirror, gurning away to achieve her own individualistic grins and grimaces.
I've had to be ever so elusive to give you but the flavour of what's in store, careful to keep the surprises for you. To do that I've also virtually ignored the second two-thirds, so what I must emphasise now is the scope of this truly great graphic novel.
It's a generational saga and its breadth is such that it covers fifty years and encompasses so much that in addition to being a thumping drama of ecstatic highs and gut-wrenching lows, of parental culpability and the determination to do better, of success and failure and reconsideration, it is also a prime slab of British social history which I rank right up there with the triumph that is NELSON and even with the exceptional, historical memory-jog that is Raymond Briggs' biography of his parents, ETHEL & ERNEST.
It is also exceptionally inclusive and erotic that will be adored by fans of Jess Fink's CHESTER 5000 XYV and enjoyed on another level entirely.
This is a book so bursting with Jade Sarson's love that - as I've sworn - it will make your hearts soar.
But, for the love of God, Marie, where will it all end? How could it tie up?
Oh, ever so satisfyingly and ever so pleasurably that you won't know whether to laugh or to cry.
That's such a great title.