Dispossession by Simon Grennan (Jonathan Cape, 2014)
Adaptations of classic literature into comics form are almost universally
terrible, so one would be forgiven for imagining that this adaptation
of Anthony Trollope's novel John Caldigate would be similarly bad. But I
was very pleasantly surprised. Grennan (best known for his
collaborations with Christopher Sperandio) manages to take this 600-page
Victorian novel and condense it convincingly into 93 pages. How does he
manage it? He does it by a careful elliptical construction. He lets the
pictures tell the story and skips anything unnecessary to the telling.
(It helps if you know the outline of the novel before you read it.)
This approach allows him to add a subplot not present in the Trollope novel--a
story of an aboriginal second wife who leaves her husband as they
interact with the European city dwellers and miners of the story. Their
dialogue is in the Wiradjuri language. The Wiradjuri are an ethnic group
of Aboriginal people who lived in New South Wales. This subplot seems
kind of tacked on, as if Grennan thought it necessary to remind readers
that John Caldgate and his companions were all extracting wealth from
Australia as colonizers, but it has parallels to the story in Trollope's
novel. Caldigate essentially has two wives, which causes him much
trouble, as does Gulpilil, the Aboriginal man in the Wiradjuri subplot.
you had seen Grennan's photo-based comics done with Sperandio, you will
be surprised by the artwork here. He has a very loose style, that
recalls Blutch's comics. He tells the story in a rigid 9-panel grid on
the page, and the work is uncinematic. There are no close ups and the
angles are usually straight-on. Most of the characters are shown in
full-figure, which reminds me of Gabrielle Bell's work.
The format is quite lovely. 9" x 11" trim-size with glossy, full-color pages. The edition I have is a hard-cover, but Amazon has a Kindle version available as well.