Jun 8, 2012

Blankets

by Craig Thompson

I've had Blankets on my TBR list for some time but had to put in a hold request at the library to finally get a copy in hand. I can see why it is so popular, and it certainly stands up to all the praise on other blogs (see links below). The first thing that impressed me about this book was its length. At almost 600 pages, it is by far the most hefty graphic novel I've ever read. And yet it was quick to get through. I only lingered over it to appreciate the artwork and reabsorb some of the scenes.

The story is about the author's childhood, coming-of-age and innocent awakening to the wonders of love. It's painful to read at times, lovely at others. Craig grew up in a Christian family with well-meaning parents who managed to make him feel guilty about his body and plenty of other things as well, including his gift for drawing. He shared a bed with his younger brother and a lot of the memory parts are of them playing together, squabbling over space, cringing from their father's anger, consoling each other. As he grows older, they drift apart and Craig finds himself more alone as he doesn't fit in well at school. Even at religious camp he can't meld with the crowd and join in the mass mentality; he always feels apart. But there he meets Raina, and almost instantly loves spending time with her. Their friendship develops to the point where after camp is over, they write long letters pouring out secrets and affection. Finally Craig convinces his parents to let him go visit Raina. He finds that her family isn't perfect either: her parents are facing divorce, she is often left alone to care for two adopted siblings with special needs, and her older sister's baby. Even so they manage to find plenty of time to spend alone, and grow even closer. Long walks in the snowy woods, long talks in her bedroom, clandestine snuggling at night... When Craig returns home he wants to continue their connection but Raina feels that a long-distance relationship is too much strain. He also starts questioning his religious upbringing and trying to reconnect with his brother, in the process of all that seeking to find himself.

It really is beautifully expressed, everything from the awkward tenderness of first love to the sibling ties and rivalry to the troubled relationships with parents. The drawings filled with patterns and dreams felt wonderfully expressive of emotion. And I loved the scenery. Some panels just showed the trees reaching to the sky, or the houses sitting in drifts of snow, or the arrangement of a room, and it made the story feel so real and vivid in a place, just like paragraphs of description can do. I think so far this is my favorite graphic novel, even though quite a bit of it can be hard to take in- there is prejudice, unfairness and unkindness, hints of child abuse and neglect. But the wonderful moments and tenderness make up for all that.

Rating: 4/5 ....... 582 pages, 2003

more opinions:
The Novel World
Shelf Love
Book Bloggy Blogg

7 comments:

Stefanie said...

So glad you enjoyed it! I read it several years ago and found it quite moving. I was surprised by its heft too, but it does indeed read fairly quickly.

Sebastian Clouth said...

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Books Editor, Before It's News
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Jenny said...

This might be my favorite graphic novel too; if not my very favorite, then at least in my top three. The art is such a beautiful complement to the text, and the story's heartbreaking.

Just as an FYI, to head off disappointment: Craig Thompson's most recent book, Habibi, is waaaaay not as good. It's SUPER rapey. I advise steering clear.

Jeane said...

Jenny- gah, what a disappointment. I've seen a few illustrations from it and thought them wonderful. Knew Habibi had more explicit sex but didnt know it was so- negative?

Chris said...

Oh I'm so with you...this book really is absolutely amazing and I'm with Jenny...it's one of my top three graphic novels two and probably in my top 10 favorite books. It was just so beautiful. I actually read the whole thing through in one sitting. I liked Habibi, but had major issues with it...it's pretty horendous at times. I don't think Craig Thompson was trying to demean women or support rape at ALL in his book, but I think the point he was trying to make...how you can survive abuse just did not come off very well...But Blankets...Yes :)

Trish said...

Wow! I've heard a lot of praise about this one but for some reason I always forget about it when I'm on the search for a graphic novel. 600 pages is long but it's your favorite? Sounds good to me...

Jeane said...

Chris- making me more trepidatious to read Habbibi! But my library doesn't have a copy so I don't even have to face the choice yet.

Trish- yeah, somehow it didn't feel like that many pages. The reading went quickly, considering.