Have you ever considered how little it takes to evoke an emotion? A hint of a smell? The briefest touch? A few carefully scratched out lines on a white page?
If you haven’t then you undoubtedly need to get yourself a copy of this French graphic novel as soon as you can… because Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme may be the best illustration I’ve ever come across of just how small a thing it takes to make us feel.
Somehow managing to be both minimalist and hugely personal the book is a thing of dark beauty; a wonderful fusion of deep pessimism and unstoppable heart. And not only that, it contains images that sear their way into your brain whether you want them to or not. Images like Gerardo’s brief smile when anti-hero Vlad tells him that he likes the smell of the pine forest he’s spent his whole life growing. Images like a croissant sitting forlornly in a hotel bin, uneaten and discarded by a supposedly recovering anorexic. Hell, even the subtle curve of a line somehow manages to make our heroine Lucille seem more womanly and whole from one frame to the next.
It’s a visual piece of theatre, my friends and one that deserves to be recognised on a grand scale.
Through this impressively sparse layout the novel offers us a hard-hitting tale of two broken kids and the desperate family life that surrounds them. It would be a remarkable undertaking even if drawn in the standard format but given the meagre space taken up by the artist’s pen the feat becomes quite incredible. And his decision to fill the pages with these brief images, with pictures of the character’s idiosyncrasies rather than verbalising them or distracting us with background art.. it’s a stunning change of pace for the world of graphic novels. Bleak and awkward at times but always beautiful and completely necessary to show just how messed up these kids really are.
To be honest, for those of you who like to put a stamp on things I’m having a hard time fitting the novel into any recognisable genre at the moment. The closest I can get would be magical realism if you take into account the fantasy elements that occasionally creep into the story. But even those are woven in with such delicacy and care that the label feels almost entirely wrong to use.
Perhaps that’s it then- the book is so unique that it effectively creates its own genre and we should stop trying to pin it down with categories and groups.
I will say this though- for a male writer to offer such undiluted insights into the mind of a fractured teenage girl is astounding enough. For him to offer up these perceptions with only three or four strokes of a pen on each page is nothing short of sensational.