Synopsis: Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven.
So begins the tale of a postman who encounters a fledgling raven while on the edge of his route and decides to bring her home. The unlikely couple falls in love and conceives a child — an extraordinary raven girl trapped in a human body. The raven girl feels imprisoned by her arms and legs and covets wings and the ability to fly. Betwixt and between, she reluctantly grows into a young woman, until one day she meets an unorthodox doctor who is willing to change her.
I’ve read a fair amount of Audrey Niffenegger, just about everything she’s written, if not everything she’s illustrated. Not because I’m a huge fan but she’s interesting and not very prolific.
A little bit of paratext. In 2010 Audrey Niffenegger was asked by “maverick” Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor to collaborate on his first narrative ballet. Audrey already had the basic shape of the idea and set to work on the story and artwork, prints of which were used in the backdrop of the ballet. The book and ballet came out the same month, in May 2013.
The ballet got almost overwhelmingly negative reviews, with most articles praising the dancers and blaming McGregor for the failure of the performance. I could find only one review where Audrey’s writing was derided, in a casual sort of small-rabid-dog-home-alone-destroying-the-house way.
The book is a typical graphic novel from Audrey, mildly pushing boundaries and flowing gently to a different but not entirely unforeseen ending. I find myself tentatively agreeing with the dance reviewers; if the ballet failed it’s not because of poor writing or lack of creative inspiration material.
I do hesitate to call it a graphic novel. It’s more like a picture book for adults in the same sort of are as Shaun Tan. The pictures which are more punctuation than narrative and the simple, smooth language create an atmosphere which is rather more fairytale than your average graphic novel.
This is a quick, easy read and the storybook style makes it quite relaxing when you compare it to a full text novel like The Time Traveler’s Wife or Her Fearful Symmetry.