Monday, February 2, 2009

Read Lately: Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

  • It was Journalista where I first read about Tamara Drewe. I certainly never saw it in stores. And I'd never heard of Posy Simmonds. So I can't say why I was interested in reading it. What I do know is that I'm a sucker for good word-of-mouth in comics. Seeing a bunch of headlines about the book (along with the occasional snippet of art) was enough to pique my interest.

  • Tamara Drewe is the story of the people who live at and around the Stonefield writers' retreat in England. It is told from the points of view of three characters: Beth Hardiman, the retreat's proprietor; Glen Larson, a visiting professor and novelist; and Casey Shaw, a teenage girl from the nearby village. Each goes about their mundane lives until Tamara, the daughter of a deceased neighbor, shows up to reclaim her childhood home. Drewe's presence has an immediate effect on the men of Stonefield, including Jonathan Hardiman, famous author and Beth's husband, and Andy, Stonefield's groundskeeper.

  • Originally published as a weekly comic in The Guardian, Simmonds doesn't constrain herself to a panel-to-panel format. Each page is composed as a whole, with comic panels showing events and long text passages telling the main characters' inner thoughts. With so much text, I was worried this might end up an illustrated novel. However Simmonds neatly avoids the problem by splitting the narrative like this.

  • The story runs at a leisurely pace for the first three quarters of the book as Simmonds slowly draws out the depths of her characters. Then the plot takes a turn for the wicked that, though I can't spoil it here, only throws her cast into high relief. Best of all, the story felt true, both in the tone and the reactions of the characters.

  • Tamara Drewe will not top any lists of great literature, graphic or otherwise. But it does have higher ambitions than to be mere entertainment. This is a graphic novel that I would happily recommend to anyone interested in seeing what the form is capable of.


  1. I'm just really getting into this genre and am always looking for interesting ones to pick up. I liked your review and will see if I can find it somewhere!

  2. @Staci - I wouldn't have any trouble recommending this as a good transitional graphic novel. Good luck tracking it down. Thanks for stopping by.