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Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart

November 27, 2012

‘When someone looks back and writes a history of this summer, two people they will almost certainly leave out are Sue and Daniel Bagnold…’

So begins Joff Winterhart’s sublimely funny and perceptive graphic novel, Days of the Bagnold Summer. Sue, 52, works in a library. Daniel, 15, is still at school. This was the summer holidays Daniel was due to spend with his father and his father’s pregnant new wife in Florida. When they cancel his trip, Sue and Daniel face six long weeks together…

I almost feel slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never before read a graphic novel, until now. I suppose I’ve never really been into superheroes all that much so I’ve avoided all of those kind of comics and graphic novels in the past, and I suppose it wasn’t until I started working as a bookseller that I realised there  is a lot more out there, but it’s knowing where to start. The lovely people at Jonathan Cape agreed to send me a few to get me started, and as Days of Bagnold the Summer has not only just been one of the first graphic novels to ever be shortlisted for the Costa Award, but as it is also very thin, I thought it would be the perfect starting point.

When I picked up Days of the Bagnold Summer for the first time, I suppose I’d have to admit that the artwork wasn’t quite to my taste. Its black and white simple comic strip style didn’t really call out to me, but the story did. I’m sure many of us could relate to the character of fifteen year old Daniel who has to spend the summer with his mother who he doesn’t really share much of a relationship with. Joff Winterhart manages to capture those awkward teenage years, where your parents are just not cool, and if anything; total embarrassments. But what really pulls at your heart is the character of his mother Sue. There are little hints to her sad childhood and her awkward love life, and with the way Daniel treats her at times, it almost makes you cry; even more so because you probably know that you acted in just the same way with your own parents. I slowly began to realise that Winterhart’s artwork was absolutely perfect for the story and the characters he created. The simple format works wonders to bring out the real emotions at the heart of the story, and I now know not to judge future graphic novels on whether the artwork is just to my taste. It’s also made me realise that it’s not necessarily about fantastic artwork, it’s more about using the medium to bring forth a message, and quite often a serious one.

If like me you’re new to graphic novels then trust me when I say this is the perfect starting point, and if you’re a regular graphic novel reader then please give this little volume a chance. It may be small but it has so much heart inside that you’ll never quite be able to leave it behind.

A massive thank you goes to Jonathan Cape for letting me discover a whole new way of reading by sending me this little gem for review!


6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2012 19:22

    Thank. The. Lord.
    So pleased that you’re now discovering this wonderful way of storytelling. I wasn’t as impressed by Bagnold, but I enjoyed it. You need to check out the following…
    The House That Groaned
    And anything by Guy Delisle.

    • November 27, 2012 20:57

      What didn’t you love about Bagnold? I have Pyongyang by Guy Delisle to read next so watch this space…. I’ll check out the others.

  2. November 27, 2012 20:38

    Blogging introduced me to graphic novels too. I haven’t tried this one, but its Costa nomination has made me want to pick it up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    • November 27, 2012 20:58

      Thanks for your comment Jackie! 🙂 It is pretty amazing what blogging can introduce you to! I literally can’t wait to read more graphic novels now. If you have any recommendations let me know!

  3. December 5, 2012 00:47

    Yes, isn’t it awesome how authors incorporate the style of graphics into the story’s tone? It’s almost like font-choice, but a much, much, MUCH more dramatic statement of intent.

  4. Carl Harper permalink
    September 3, 2013 15:40

    Hi Emma, nice review. I’m very pleased to hear you enjoyed the book so much and hope you’ve continued reading graphic novels. Joff is a friend of mine and I love his work, so I’m especially pleased it was his book that changed your opinion on the format. Let’s hope he writes another one soon.

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