Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Tale of One Bad Rat

I borrowed this Bryan Talbot Graphic novel (Dark Horse Books) from the library a few weeks ago, and just got around to reading it.

The title of this book is in the style of Beatrix Potter. The cover art and font are obviously a nod to the small volumes of stories featuring animals that many of us grew up loving. The story relates to Potter in a number of ways, and is a nice story about overcoming abuse and learning to live and finding peace with yourself. It is a bit neat, and perhaps overly straightforward in its telling and its resolution, but it is still very well done.

There are several themes that run the course of the book. One is a connection to Beatrix Potter, One is vivid visions or hallucinations, One is the theme of child sexual abuse and the toll it takes on the victim, and the last one is rats. These are all tied together in a way that helps us to feel what the protagonist, a girl named Helen, who is homeless when we first meet her and has a pet rat. is going through, and to really see how she is coping with a history of many years of sexual abuse by her father, and emotional neglect by her mother.

Helen goes from one place to another, encountering something at nearly every point that triggers flashbacks to her abusive past. It is something that is ever present, and keeps driving her on. She has a strong interest in Beatrix Potter and goes more or less on a pilgrimage of sorts the the area in which Potter lived and wrote her stories about. In addition to meeting a number of people who just want to use her, she does encounter a number of good souls.

The overall feeling of the book is one of hope. Helen takes control of her situation by the end of the book and it ends on a good note. She is greatly helped toward this end by people she happens upon when she is at a low point, who end up being good and kind to her and step into a positive sort of parental role that she had been lacking in her life.

It's a good story, I'm glad I read it, but I don't particularly love it. The art is good but not a style I like very much, and the story is well written, but didn't blow me away. It's a good book to borrow first.

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