Posts Tagged ‘Graphic novel’

The Color of Heaven‘ is the third and final part of Kim Dong Hwa’s Colors trilogy.

This part continues the story of Ehwa and her mother as we follow the happenings in their lives. We also follow their love stories which follow different paths and move in different ways. There is yearning, longing, heartbreak, lots of mother-daughter conversations, allusions to images and metaphors from classical poetry, descriptions of flowers and nature and how they are metaphors to happenings in a person’s life according to Korean tradition and culture – all these and more are there in the book. There is one scene in the book that is different from the norm. Ehwa disappears one night from home and gets back the next morning. When her mother asks her where she was, Ehwa refuses to reply, but tells her mother that she would like to be punished. What happens after that for the next couple of pages in heartbreaking. I can’t tell you what happens though. You should read the book to find out. I really want to tell you how the book ended – happy or sad or open-ended – but it not for me to tell, it is for you to find out.

I loved ‘The Color of Heaven‘. It is a beautiful finale to this wonderful trilogy. I loved the whole trilogy – every part and every page. The blurb to the trilogy reads – “A sweeping trilogy of first love and second chances”. That is a perfect description of it. The whole story is lyrical, the artwork is brilliant, the depiction of traditional Korean culture is fascinating, the love stories are wonderful. But for me the best part of the book is the depiction of the relationship between Ehwa and mother. It is one of the most beautiful mother-daughter relationships that I have ever seen depicted in any book. Ehwa’s mother is one of the most beautiful mothers ever portrayed in fiction. She is one of my favourite characters ever. This trilogy is one of my favourite graphic novels, ever.

I am sharing a couple of scenes from the book. Pictures #1-2 form one scene and pictures #3-4 form a second scene.

Have you read ‘The Color of Heaven‘? What do you think about it?

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I got ‘Forget Sorrow’ by Belle Yang, as a birthday present from one of my dear friends. My friend has introduced me to a lot of beautiful literature and so I couldn’t wait to read Belle Yang’s book. I also realized that Chinoiseries is hosting a Chinese Literature Challenge and so I will read this as a part of that too. I read it in one sitting last week. Here is what I think.

What I think

‘Forget Sorrow’ is the memoir of the author Belle Yang and that of her father. Belle Yang starts the book with her own life – on how she was born in Taiwan to parents who had come from mainland China and how they had ended up in America. She also talks about the difference between her perspective of life and that of her parents and the eternal conflict between the value systems of the east and the west and how that led to differences and conflicts at home. She goes away from home to attend college, but comes back home after graduating, as an ex-boyfriend is stalking her. Her father uses his contacts and gets her admitted to a traditional Chinese art course in Beijing, where her teacher is Deng Lin, Deng Xiaoping’s daughter. The year is 1989 and we all know what happened – it is the year of the Tiananmen massacre, and Belle experiences history as it happens. Unfortunately the situation in Beijing becomes too tough for her to manage and she comes back home to live with her parents and whiles away her time. Her dad is very disappointed with her and frequently compares her with people whom they know – he is disappointed that while everyone is moving on in their lives, studying at university and getting advanced degrees, or getting settled in good professions, his own daughter is whiling away her time at home. This time together helps Belle in getting to know her parents better. While having long conversations, her father tells her his own story – about his own parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and how it came about that a poor family in Manchuria, became rich and how history intervened in the fortunes of the family and made it poor again, and how he was able to escape from his own country and strike it out in a free land. A significant part of the story is narrated by Belle Yang’s father and is about his family.

I liked ‘Forget Sorrow’ very much for the insider’s view it presented on early twentieth-century China. Belle’s grandparents were Manchurians and we see how this fact changes their lives and that of their families for good and for bad at different times in history. My favourite character in the story was Belle’s father’s second uncle, who is a person who loves live to the full, is philosophical, is not ambitious and is able to enjoy life when the family is rich and when it is poor. At various times he tries his hand at selling watermelons and works in a factory as an accountant and people around always like him for his unconventional ways and for his friendly nature. Another of my favourite characters in the book is Belle Yang’s father’s aunt, who dies young. The book also gives an interesting depiction of the debates, arguments, subtle politics and the kind acts that happen in a Chinese family of that era, where custom and tradition are important but where people find their way around tradition and indulge in spontaneous acts of kindness.

In some ways Belle Yang’s book reminded me of the graphic novel classics –  ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Sartrapi, because it was also a memoir set during a particular era, and of ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman, because as Spiegelman does, Yang also talks to her father and draws out the family story and secrets from him.

If you like reading books on China and if you like graphic novels, you will enjoy this.

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I think this is going to be my last book review for the year 🙂 I was hoping to finish forty books this year, but because I had two not-so-good reading months in succession, I couldn’t get there. But thirty-six is not a bad number – it is better than last year 🙂

I discovered ‘Exit Wounds’ by Rutu Modan through Bina from ‘If You Can Read This’, who recommended it highly. As I haven’t read a book by an Israeli author before and as this was a graphic novel too, I couldn’t resist it. I finished reading it in nearly a day. Here is the review.

Summary of the story

I am giving below a summary of the story as given in the back cover of the book.

In modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man, Koby Franco, receives an urgent phone call from a female soldier named Numi. Learning that his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins Numi in searching for clues. As Koby tries to unravel the mystery of his missing father, he finds himself not only piecing together the last few months of his father’s life, but his entire identity.


What I think

‘Exit Wounds’ is the story of a quest – a quest for a missing person, a quest to discover secrets and also in some ways a quest for love. When Koby and Numi go on this quest, they discover interesting surprises and also strange things happen to them, as can happen to two people who work closely together when they go on a quest. What is Numi’s relationship to Koby’s father? What secrets do they discover about Koby’s father? What does the quest do to them individually and to their friendship (or should I say acquaintance)? For answers to these you have to read the book 🙂

‘Exit Wounds’ was named as one of the top 10 graphic novels by Time magazine in 2007. A richly deserved accolade. The illustrations in the book are interesting – Rutu Modan uses simple lines and also the artwork is in colour, which is rare for a graphic novel (well, not really rare, but graphic novels seem to be in black-and-white by default. I have read just two graphic novels in colour – ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘Logicomix’. ‘Asterios Polyp’ was also in colour, but it was not ‘colour-colour’ :))

‘Exit Wounds’ reminded me in some ways of the movie ‘Random Hearts’ (starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas) where the two leading characters go on a quest and are afraid of what they might discover. 

‘Exit Wounds’ was originally published by Drawn and Quarterly, the same company which published the ‘Berlin series by Jason Lutes. They seem to be publishers of fine graphic novels, going by the evidence of these two books. My own edition is published by Jonathan Cape (I am glad that they didn’t change the title and the cover!) – I am surprised that Jonathan Cape is publishing graphic novels now! It is really wonderful!  

I loved the character Numi – she was cool, she didn’t give up till she found the answers, she was positive in her search and she had a wonderful sense of humour. One of my favourite scenes was towards the end of the book – it shows why Numi is such a wonderful character. I am trying to give an excerpt here. It is a bit spoilerish, and so be sufficiently forewarned. 



Final Thoughts 

I enjoyed reading ‘Exit Wounds’. Rutu Modan is clearly a very talented writer and artist. I can’t wait to explore her other books.

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