Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Tale of One Bad Rat - Bryan Talbot

I picked this up at the library, after reading Nymeth's and Deweys' review, and I have to say it was a great choice.
I liked the art, the storyline apparently simple but carrying more than one meaning, the connections with the author Beatrix Potter (creator of Peter Rabbit), and the choice of talking about sexual abuse with frankness.
It's the story of Helen, a teenager who has run away from home after being abused by her father for years. She starts begging in the streets and tubes of London. Then meets a group of squatters and joins them, but leaves them soon after for the country, following Beatrix Potter's trail, her inspirer and model.
There's many things that make this story of survival a special one. I love, first of all, the parallel between Helen and Beatrix Potter's lives. They both had to leave home to free themselves from an oppressive family. And both have visions, which identifies them as true artists. This connection is wonderfully transformed into a Potter-ish tale at the end, called The Tale of One Bad Rat, who stood up against the big evil cat, and made a name for herself.
Eventually Helen stands up against her monster, showing that is possible to confront your worst fears, by just saying things out loud.
Rats have an important symbolic meaning. As Helen puts it, they are scavengers, thus survivors, just like her. Her little pet rat represents the way she feels about herself, disgusting and dirty, but also capable of escaping, surviving, and finding out that she is not the dirty one, after all.
The drawings are very powerful throughout the whole book, but they become even more significant, to me, at the end, when Helen is in the countryside. I believe it was nature that gave her strength, that had a revealing power for her. I could feel it in every frame. Because even if I didn't go through what Helen goes through, I always feel regenerated and energized when I'm surrounded by beautiful natural landcapes: a wood, a river, the top of a hill. It's electrifying. I think this was a big part of Helen's healing process.
So, yes, there's more than one layer to appreciate, and that what intrigued me the most.
I also liked that the art style was not just beautiful, but also very accessible. It could appeal and be understood by anybody, even those unaccustomed to the grammar of graphic novels.
And this is important for a story that could help change people's lives.

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Ana S. said...

I agree with everything you said! The rats, the role of nature, the several's such a wonderful book. And it made me want to learn more about Beatrix Potter.

Debi said...

What a wonderful review, Valentina! Without a doubt, if this wasn't already on my wish list, you would have put it there!

mariel said...

Ooh sounds good. Bad blogger! Another to add to my wishlist!

valentina said...

Ana, it had the same effect on me, so that I put all her books on my bookmooch wishlist. Only it doesn't seem likely that I'll be able to mooch them!

Debi, eh eh, hopefully you'll find it at your library, it's such a beautiful book.

Mariel - Me no bad blogger! This is a quick read and won't affect your TBR pile What-So-Ever!:D

Vasilly said...

I haven't read this yet. It sounds like a great book. I'm hosting the latest giveaway for Dewey's Books challenge. Why don't you enter?