Friday 8 September 2017

ReaditDaddy's Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 8th September 2017 - "The Park Bench" by Chaboute (Faber and Faber)

Stretching our fledgeling comic-reading feathers into Book of the Week territory, we're nudging aside chapter books for a third BOTW -  a stunning graphic novel for older readers...
Chaboute's fantastic wordless graphic novel "The Park Bench" seems like a crazy high concept idea for a story, and yet taking a simple everyday object and taking stop-motion style comic frame snapshots of it throughout its lifetime is an oddly compelling, involving and emotional experience.

People-watching never gets old. It's something I do on a regular basis, and it's actually very good for the creative soul not just to observe the everyday comings and goings of ordinary everyday folk, but it's fascinating to try and imagine their back story as they nonchalantly go on their way.

Yes yes, I know that probably sounds like the fluffiest of fluff, but in "The Park Bench" by Chaboute, we're given a masterclass in people watching all based around a single location. Chaboute is indeed a master of wordless storytelling, tugging us into a world that on the surface seems like a hopeless choice to generate a series of interesting story vignettes.

About that set of stories, each bisecting thread kicks off with a relatively simple image of the park bench itself. We, the reader, take on a voyeuristic role as various people take turns to sit there, unfolding multi-layered intertwining storytelling as the graphic novel follows the characters throughout.

Lives intertwine over that most mundane of everyday objects, a park bench
Now and again you'll start to recognise recurring characters - and actually miss your favourites between scenes as others come along and sit down (piddling dog, ollying skateboard kid, gotta love ya both!)

The human stories are chronicled here with delicacy and intimacy. It's almost like we feel we're getting to know these folk - but there are more than a few surprises along the way too...

Young and old, human and - well, dog. Everyone appreciates a comfy seat
It seems like such a simple idea but it quickly becomes addictive and compelling - and you'll be absolutely hooked as you start to form your own bond with the characters (who you'll probably identify with either as being pretty much like you, or at least a lot like people you know).

I loved the different ways different age groups use the bench (particularly loved stood-up-by-date dude and the old couple). Yes indeed it's simple storytelling but somehow it's become one of the most fascinating slices of people-watching comic storytelling I've seen in a very long time, and even when you reach the inevitable (and quite sad) end of the tale, you'll dive back in for another read, to see if your interpretation still holds water.

"The Park Bench" by Chaboute is out now, published by Faber and Faber (digital copy kindly supplied for review through NetGalley).