“Tamara Drewe” by Posy Simmonds

 “Tamara Drewe” by Posy Simmonds (2008)   

 Posy Simmonds.  Has there ever been a name more English?

 As far as graphic novels go, I’ve read the usual suspects, the “Maus” books, the “Persepolis” books.  These were excellent, and I must say I’ve developed a strong fondness for these books where the artwork accentuates the story.  I loved comic books as a kid, guess I still do.

 “Tamara Drewe” is a true novel, one long story, not a series of vignettes.  It’s an adult novel with lots, lots of messing around.  The story is centered around Stonefield, an English country manor where people can drive into London for the day, but sometimes depending on the traffic they might have to stay overnight, or at least it’s a good excuse.  Husband and wife Nick and Beth, the proprietors of the manor, run it as a working retreat for writers.  Nick himself is a best-selling author of crime fiction.   Beth is kept busy running the retreat, but Nick is busy doing a lot of other things besides writing his books.

A young woman named Tamara Drewe has moved back to her family estate.  She recently had a nose job, likes to wear short shorts, and drives most of the men crazy.  The fun begins.

The only American in the story is a cute chubby stumblebum writer named Glen who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for us readers, in the right place at the right time.        

The English countryside, indeed.  While reading “Tamara Drewe” you can almost see the barns, the fields, the cows, the dogs, the disaffected teenagers hanging around.  Actually you do see all of these with the wonderful illustrations.  While you are reading “Tamara Drewe”, it is almost like you are living at the manor, perhaps another writer at the retreat.  I’m not all that familiar with rural England, but the tone here seems just right.  The people seem to have stepped out of real life into this comic book.

One thing about comic books, you need to keep the dialog short; otherewise the words crowd out the pictures.  Posy Simmonds is great at conveying snideness, rudeness, or humiliation in just a few spoken words.  When Simmonds has something to tell us that doesn’t involve dialogue, she simply writes a couple of paragraphs in non-comic form.  That is just fine with me.  It’s all a matter of what works best.

“Tamara Drewe” is supposed to have been inspired by Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”.  I read “Far from the Madding Crowd” a long time ago and can’t remember any of the details to compare with “Tamara Drewe”.  However for sure “Tamara Drewe” and Stonefield do resemble Peyton Place.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve steered clear of graphc novels, but your review makes me think I should give this one a try. Thanks for the post.

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    • Hi Weekend Reader,
      I do think you will like “Tamara Drewe”. It’s been made into a movie which has gotten some good reviews, some not so good. I actually got Simmonds’ previous book, Gemma Bovery’, too which is supposed to be based on Madame Bovary. In that book, the artwork is a little more crude, and it is in black-and-white. ‘Tamara Drewe’ was serialized in the Guardian, so no expense was spared.

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