Juliette or, Ghosts return in the spring by Camille Jourdy

Gasp! A graphic novel sitting on the table of new books in the library and one that I might like. What can I say? I grabbed it.

I don’t know Camille Jourdy but this is a wonderful book telling of the return of Juliette to her family but with a family in chaos. Her mother and father are divorced but still niggle each other, her sister is having an affair out in the greenhouse at the end of the garden with the man from the costume shop and her Grandma is suffering from dementia. Oh, and Juliette is suffering with anxiety. What could possibly go wrong?

The story starts with the train journey, and if I didn’t know before that this was France, I certainly did after this series of pictures. I suppose it could be anywhere but the pylons are definitely french in shape as is the post for the sign in the last image. I have seen those concrete posts all over France. Each image has so much detail in it – the industrial centres, rural towns eventually pulling into her hometown.

However, it is like all those coming home trips. You look forward to it but once you are there it feels like you want to go back to where you came from, in this case Paris.

There are some very funny moments in the book. Her sister’s lover making the most of the costumes he has in the shop to wear when he visits her in her greenhouse. He’s a bunny, a wolf and a ghost. It’s the ghost trip where it all falls apart for her sister because her children complain that they have a ghost under the desk in their bedroom and although they aren’t believed, he is eventually caught.

The main feeling throughout the book is melancholy, with things seeming to fall apart including the duckling she finds with a man she met in a bar. He looks after the duckling but in the end it gets squashed so even that doesn’t succeed – nor does the relationship with him.

The pictures I really loved were the whole page or double page images. They are bright, often of the outside and where they are not, there is a wall decorated or papered in trees, twigs and birds. They are often referred to as Matisse-like but I think they are very like Hockney’s Spring collection. The image of MaryLou’s boyfriend dressed in his wolf costume in what looks like a wooded area is excellent. I love the toys strewn at the base of the fence just to remind us that this is not a Little Red Riding Hood story although it could be argued he is playing the role of the big, bad wolf in their marriage. On the following page, Juliette visits her Grandmother and sees her false teeth in a jar beside her bed. She, of course, says “Oh Grandmother, what big teeth you have . . .”. This being ‘real’ life, her Grandmother can’t hear her so the joke is dropped.

I loved this book even though nothing is sorted out at the end.

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