Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"It would only be a matter of minutes.
"You're alone here.
"By the time the flames are seen, there would be nothing to be done.
"And then... oblivion."
Two hundred and sixty pages lit by fire and heavy with death, few from natural causes.
It's happening all over Europe on the landing shores and battlefields of World War II, news seeping over the airwaves and out of radio speakers crackling with static and hundreds of thousands of fatalities. Canada promised there would be no conscription, but reneged. So Jerome deserted and now hides in his grandfather's remote and rickety old house, sequestered in a forest in Quebec. His grandfather is grumpy and the house needs renovating, for it's been through several degrees of trauma.
It has an unsettling, opaque history which Jerome becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering. And, in the night, alone in the barn or out in the woods, Jerome's mind becomes plagued with startling visions of even more death.
The art is haunting. The cows at night are silent, wide-eyed and eerie.
The thick textures on the cover refuse to let your eyes settle, while inside the lines and black shadows have evidently been superimposed upon boards separately 'painted' in oil pastels and gouache which gives them an unconstrained freedom to roam and bleed out behind, to dance around hair and faces like flame. The forest too shimmers with autumnal light or burning sunset colours in rays across purple evening snow.
The grandfather's drawn with a line and looseness reminiscent of those similarly acting their socks off in Dave McKean's CAGES. He is turn kind, stern and highly evasive, especially when talk turns to digging the garden. They talk while they renovate and they talk round the bonfires at night.
"You know, your father... that hunting accident...
"When something like that happens... it moves to the centre of your mind... and, whether you realise it or not... it can grown to leave little room for anything else."
At which point, like the mind, the entire panel is consumed by fire.
Except for brief visits from his mother or Mathilde whom Jerome's gently courting, their only constant companion is the grandfather's dog Jack who finds more to bark at than can be seen. That sense of threat pierces what is otherwise a densely claustrophobic sensation throughout, thick with oranges during both night and day. The radio broadcasts add to that claustrophobia and threat, for there are posters splattered about town encouraging folks to dob-in deserters.
With so much time for solitary thought, there is, throughout, a brooding intensity.
And a house with a history of fire.