Friday, December 21, 2012

Tamara Drewe

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Tamara Drewe (Random House, 2007).

I always enjoy reading collected editions of comics and seeing whether I can spot the breaks from the original publication. Here's one where I couldn't. Posy Simmonds wrote and illustrated Tamara Drewe, a contemporary take on the Thomas Hardy novel Far from the Madding Crowd, as a weekly strip in the Saturday edition of Britain's Guardian from 2005-07, with a book version soon following. It received a good deal of critical acclaim and attention, and, in 2010, there was a feature film adaptation that was either never released in the US, or buried so completely that nobody ever heard of it.

The story is set in a small Dorset village, where Nicholas and Beth Hardiman, a crime novelist and his long-suffering wife, run a little getaway for writers and try to hide their crumbling marriage. Into an increasingly taut situation, Tamara Drewe comes home to the village with the impact of a guided missile. She's recently undergone plastic surgery and is showing off her gorgeous face and body. She's working as a newspaper columnist and dating the drummer from a pop band, much to the horror of a local teen who adores him, and it doesn't take very long for a tangled mass of interpersonal relationships and jealousies to develop.

I really enjoyed this story. It's witty, and smart, and all of the very different characters are drawn with believable traits. The teens who take out their frustrations on Tamara's e-mail address book are really funny, and Simmonds gives readers as many reasons to enjoy and appreciate the cheating Nicholas as to hate him. It's a great depiction of small town boredom and dreaming, and beautifully drawn throughout. Owing to language and some nudity, this isn't for everybody, but it's happily recommended for older readers.

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