Thursday, August 04, 2016

A Girl, Dior, and a Fox

For this August's Women in Translation month celebration, I realized that it was hard to find women's writing in translation, in the graphic novel format. In fact, I could only think of two that I've read in recent history. And I haven't talked about either yet -- now is the perfect chance!

So here are two graphic novels, both translated from French -- one France-French, one Canadian. They're quite different, but have an affinity nonetheless, in that they are aimed at younger audiences and have young women in the lead roles.

Girl in Dior / Annie Goetzinger; translated from the French by Joe Johnson.
New York: NBM Publishing, c2015.
109 p.

This one is by a well-known French artist. And the illustrations are simply beautiful. The dreamy Dior dresses are drawn beautifully; the elegance and flow comes right off the page. I'd borrow this from the library again, just to look at the illustrations. It's too bad the text didn't live up to them.

The story is almost a docudrama, using a character named Clara Nohant, a journalist who is swept up to become a Dior model after covering a show, to describe Dior's rise and influence. It's unfortunate that she's imaginary. And that the story is a bit unlikely and fairy tale-ish. (The tone reminds me of a vintage romance novel I read recently, Mary Burchell's Paris & My Love about a young girl who gets hired on at a Dior-like fashion house in Paris - though even she didn't think she could be a model...) Anyhow, the story is a bit stilted and flat, but, the book is a beautiful object. So, worth exploring for fashion fanatics like myself.

Jane, the Fox, and Me / Fanny Britt, ill. Isabelle Arsenault; translated from the French by Christelle Morelli & Susan Ouriou.
Toronto: Groundwood, c2013.
101 p.

The second title is quite different. It features Helene, an 11 yr old who is bullied by her classmates for being overweight & anything else they can think of. She takes refuge in reading Jane Eyre repeatedly. If you love Jane Eyre, you will probably want to read this as well.

Helene comes face to face with a fox near the end, at a time when she really needs it. And as she says, everyone needs a strategy, even Jane Eyre. The illustrations are clever; they differ in colour reflecting Helene's everyday life, her Jane Eyre life, or her imaginative life otherwise. And they are lovely to examine closely. The only quibble I have is that the story sort of peters out without a strong moment of resolution.

But it's thoughtful, and beautiful, and really a wonderful book. I think it could bear rereading, a few times. The emotional intensity of childhood & adolescence comes through here, with the cruelty of children in full view. Helene is a character as strong as Jane Eyre in her resolution to prevail. I enjoyed this read, and do recommend it.


  1. I loved the bookishness of Fanny Britt's story. It's one that I read from the library, but which I definitely want to add to my shelves. Have you read the Aya series by Marguerite Abouet? Sometimes they are shelved in the teen section, but I really enjoyed them all, especially when it became as much about the secondary characters as it was about Aya!

    1. Oh me too - I love Jane Eyre so much I'll read anything with any connection to it. I was richly rewarded this time! I haven't read Aya yet but I know our library has it. I'll have to explore it.


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