Graphic novels & memoirs round-up: Vivid worlds of woodlands, war and fine dining

 

Life is good for chef Katie, and Seconds may be the best restaurant in town, but she wants an even better one she can call her own and she wants her ex-boyfriend back. When the restaurant's invisible "house spirit" gives her one chance to erase a mistake, once proves not enough, but her world changes in unforeseen ways. Perfectly pitched, paced and pictured, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds (SelfMadeHero, £15.99), a follow-up to his six-volume hit Scott Pilgrim, is another manga-influenced romantic fantasy, this time about the perils of wanting perfection at any price. It's cute and clever without being cloying, and O'Malley's sassy redhead restaurateur wins us over as she talks back at the story's narrator.

The gothic tradition is alive, or perhaps splendidly undead, in Emily Carroll's chilling period folktales Through the Woods (Faber & Faber, £12.99). Particularly effective is how Carroll insinuates her handwritten narration within her elegant page designs. For example, the words of a refrain wailing through a haunted house unravel across her panels in white, changing volume between subdued lower-case and emphatic capitals, and inscribed over smearing bloodstains, like the red ribbons with which a second wife binds together her predecessor's skeletal body parts in her murderous husband's bedroom. Bonds of trust easily snap, while forests and caves become tomb-like or womb-like menaces. Carroll knows when to shock on the turn of a page and when to leave her horrors lurking.

Bonds are also tested to breaking point in Fatherland (Jonathan Cape, £16.99), Nina Bunjevac's compulsive attempt to piece together the tragic life and legacy of a father she barely knew. As a dissident Serb in Tito's Yugoslavia, he escaped in 1960 for exile in Canada, where his all-consuming anti-communist terrorism cost him his marriage. His wife finally broke free in 1975 by taking Nina and their other daughter to their grandparents in Yugoslavia for a "short visit", which lasted three years.

Then, in 1977, he died in an explosion while preparing another bomb attack on communist sympathisers. The fear Bunjevac's mother lived with has never entirely gone; returning to Canada, she used to block the children's bedroom windows with furniture each night, and to this day insists that Nina always locks her door, not leaving until she hears the click. Illuminated in exquisite cross-hatched and pointillist realism, Fatherland lucidly untangles political history to show its deep-rooted, far-reaching impact on Bunjevac's parents, family and herself.

Images from Nina Bunjevac's Fatherland Images from Nina Bunjevac's Fatherland
Further examples of transforming memories into memoirs include Matilda Tristram's Probably Nothing (Viking, £16.99) and Emmanuel Guibert's How the World Was (First Second, £14.99). Pregnant 18 weeks when diagnosed with bowel cancer, Tristram posted her experiences and feelings online in disarmingly direct cartoons and commentaries. Her tone can veer on the same page from poignant – putting into the baby's cradle "a doll of myself that I made (so if I die I'll still be there)" – to hilarious (contemplating "lacy colostomy bag covers") and furious ("Look at all these people not having cancer."). Hers is autobiography at its most heartfelt and heartening.

Fourteen new stories that would have been forbidden in their time question what was so "great" about the Great War in To End All Wars (Soaring Penguin, £18.99). So, deserter Thomas Highgate narrates his own execution, Jaroslav Hašek's Good Soldier Švejk cross-examines in a trial in The Hague the "inbred genetic incompetents" behind this preventable war, and German artist Otto Dix drags us inside his paintings, "not anti-war statements… rather, they are exorcisms". This fascinating, wide-ranging anthology challenges any revisionist glorifying of heroic sacrifice.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food