Writer and Artist: Alison Bechdel
What's it about?
Subtitled 'A Family Tragicomic' this is the story of Bechdel's family life, her emergent sexuality and her father's sexuality.
Bruce Bechdel is an English teacher and Funeral Director. He is obsessed with restoring the family's Victorian home, constantly rearranaging, redecorating, fixing, buffing, shining, wallpapering and hanging things within the house. He is an avid reader and a lot of his and Alison's relationship is conducted through literary discussion. When Alison is in college her Mother tells her that her Father has had many affairs throughout the years, all with men.
Against the chaotic background of Bechdel's home life she chronicles her experiences about life in the Fun Home (funeral parlour), her mother's amateur acting career, her developing anxiety, her gender expression and her discovery of lesbianism.
What's good about it?
Winner of Time Magazine's book of the year in 2006, this novel reads more like a piece of proper literary work than a comic. The type of narrative and the framing of the book, with it's literary references and use of the house of metaphor, exemplifies this.
For example, this is the story of a father and daughter relationship governed by books. They use the books in their house as a way to covertly discuss their relationships and paths through life. As such, the narrative also draws paralells between the Bechdel family life and classic literary works, be they Greek tragedies or coming of age books.
A second example would be the use of the house as a metaphor for the familial relationships. The home consists of gilt and ornate items disguising and masking the ordinary wood and bricks, in the same way family's relationships consists of empty surface emotions and ideas. This is not a family who can discuss their true feelings honestly and openly, attempts to do occur once in a blue moon and are met with awkwardness and fear.
Bechdel's writing and art will draw you in and totoally immerse you in her family's dysfunctional life. This is a fabulous book and only improves on repeat readings.
What's bad about it?
Nothing. This is as near perfect as I can find.
What's the art like?
Bechdel uses a blue green wash for all her art, (the story behind this is included within the volume) and has a rather honest style of artwork:
Alison Bechdel is also the author of the long running Dykes to Watch Out For strip. Her website and more samples of her work can be found here.