This story is not the cosy, fluffy cat story that I remember from Simmonds, more a dark (Darke) retelling/reimagining of Christmas Carol by Dickens with Cassandra as the Scrooge.
Cassandra lives on her own, runs her ex-husband’s art gallery and somehow sells more than one copy of some works of art. The reasons are touched upon but not explored because it is only a device to turn her into a curmudgeonly, fat (self-described) old woman who hates everyone and has a nasty comment for many people she encounters. It is at this point that we get a flashback to when she meets Nicki, the daughter of her ex-husband and agrees to let her live in the basement if she walks the dog. Nicki is an artist but not of the painting variety – more the feminist activist, demonstrating in museums and art galleries. it is the man that she takes up with that causes problems for both Nickin and Cassandra.
The pictures are fantastic and show quite a lot of variety. In the fight scene (!), the images are small, framed with lines and mostly in shades of grey to show quick action. The only colour is the lights from the shops – Versace – shining out in yellow contrasting the wealth with the shady action. In fact, this highlighting is used to very good effect in other places. In one image, Cassandra stands outside of the shops with everyone rushing by buying for Christmas with just the Big Issue seller’s red gilet highlighted. This is slowly revealed to be important.
Other pictures take up a whole page leaving no white frames as the mass of people move onwards, many looking at their phones and people wearing Father Christmas hats walking against the flow. And other pages have more text with free-flowing images. I am interested in when Simmonds decides that the text is needed to tell the story and when images only can be used.
The message of the book is about homelessness and rough sleepers with Simmonds showing a sharpness of focus on the matter. I love it.
You can read a chunk of the first chapter here.