Thursday, 3 November 2016

Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing

I have never been all that keen on the idea of graphic novels; all those foreshortened figures leaping out at you from the page, the text, such as it is, in block capitals. If you like crafted prose and prefer leaving pictures on the wall, you could be forgiven for disregarding the genre altogether. Or so I thought.

Hearing Sarah Laing speak at the Writers and Readers component of the recent Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival, and being a long-term fan of Katherine Mansfield, my interest was piqued by Laing’s recently published memoir, Mansfield and Me. So I decided to give this particular graphic a go.

Mansfield and Me is a bit like two biographies in one – with Laing’s story of growing up and study, work struggles and relationships interwoven with a narrative thread following Mansfield’s life. I really like Laing’s quirky cartoons, and the way she makes direct links between events in her life with those of Miss Mansfield’s. This gives plenty of scope for some droll humour, particularly the images of KM looking over Laing’s shoulder and being disparaging of what she sees.

Mansfield and Me is entertaining, thought-provoking and informative in equal parts. It left me longing to return to stories like 'The Garden Party' and 'At the Bay', with Laing’s delicately washed images conjuring up sunny seaside Wellington and the chilly Northern Hemisphere of the early 1900s. Being a graphic memoir, it's a quick read - the quickest 350 odd pages I've read in a while - but the pictures and humour have you flipping back to reread. This is an attractive book that should appeal to a wide range of readers, comic and traditional book lovers alike.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Mansfield and Me

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