Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

Tamara Drewe
by Posy Simmonds

Published: 1st November, 2007
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Genre: Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback
Pages: 136


I think this cover is gorgeous. The character depicted is Tamara Drewe and I think this cover makes her look EXACTLY like the Corpse Bride...which is always a good thing in my eyes! Tamara doesn't have blue hair (she's a brunette) so I reckon the cover reflects her difference to the rest of the quiet village which she returning to rather than an exact resemblance.

The art in this graphic novel is gorgeous. Posy Simmonds uses watercolours in soft pastel colours to reflect the atmosphere of a country village in England e.g: 

She also mixes colours around in the panels to represent different things: blue shades are used to depict memories and dreams characters are having, and sepia and red often to portray a character's emotional response to an event. I love this; it defines sections of the page and subtley hints to the reader what is going on without explicitely saying so.

Plot Synopsis

Once the ugly duckling in the Dorset village of Ewedown, Tamara Drewe, now a glamorous journalist with a life-changing nose job, returns to sell her late mother's house. She awakens feelings in sexy old flame, Andy, the decent odd job man at pretentious author Nicholas Hardiment's writers' school and in Nicholas himself, a serial philanderer who cheats on his loyal wife Beth. But Tamara has a new man in her life, Ben, an rock drummer whose marriage proposal she accepts, to the dismay of local girl - and Ben's biggest fan - Jody who decides to take matters into her own hands.

Other things to know about this book...

  • It is a loose re-telling of 'Far From the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy
  • It is described as 'a comic book for grown ups', and Posy Simmonds as 'the master of middle-class muddle'
  • It was first serialised in The Guardian newspaper before being published as a book
  • It has been made into a film starring Gemma Arterton as Tamara

My Rating:


Loved it. Could not put it down. It is cosy and charming and almost painful to read due to how incredibly well observed and realised it is. It is as if Posy Simmonds has managed to go to a typical English village, distil and bottle the essence and feel of life there, add in her own dashes of drama and intrigue and the product is this graphic novel. From the angry locals who hate outsiders for turning their once functional farmland into 'extortionate real estate', to the bored teenagers who constantly spy on the adults hoping something might happen in between snogging behind barns and smoking in the bus stop, I feel I know all of these characters. Everyone knows everyone and, equally, everyone else's business and it is fascinating to watch as characters flirt and...more in some cases! You really live on top of each other in villages like this one; they may seem lazy and idyllic from the outside, but on the inside they are filled with people who are bored, lonely and nosey.

I found the Hartiman's relationship really interesting. I mean, I hate Nick Hartiman. He is a dick. His long-suffering wife Beth types up pages and pages of his novel each night, is his personal skivvy in every way, cooks for him, does all the domestic chores, runs their guesthouse business, is his assistant and secretary, and yet he can never be honest with her. She, on the other hand, is a fool. She thinks that by waiting on him hand and foot and acting like the perfect wife, mother and secretary whilst hiding her bubbling jealousy, annoyance and rage at his ingratitude under the surface that he will love her. He won't. He is selfish and keeps treating her badly because she has no self respect. If she did she would kick him out after they cause a scene in front of the writers at the retreat, which was completely humiliating. She thinks he is too good for her and so tries to make up for it by presenting herself as the perfect wife. I know people in real life who think they can keep up this facade, but the rage and jealousy always win in the end, as they do in this story. 

I liked Tamara Drewe's character; she is very flawed which I always admire in a main character. She is completely in love with herself and knows she can make people do things for her by showing her body and flirting a little. In other words, she is manipulative and uses Andy, the man who loves her from afar, for the attention she craves, as well as more practical considerations like the gardening. When she embarks on her relationship with a married man, she appears naive and vulnerable and it is obvious that she is just a little lost and easily influenced by power and persuasion. Her column, which is presented throughout the novel, is outrageously honest and funny in its own oblivious way.

I loved the two girls who are bored in the village and long for excitement; Casey and Jody. Casey is overshadowed by her glamourous friend and feels invisible and insignificant while Jody is just scared of being boring. The way that they gossip about celebrities in the same way they do about their neighbours is hilarious. It made me think that parents are kinda cruel for making kids grown up in these tiny villages that are miles from anywhere and have absolutely nothing to do except walk in muddy fields and sit in a bus stop. No wonder that by the end of the novel they have caused havoc. 

There is a lot of humour in this novel too. The satire on writers is really funny. Beth Hartiman runs a 'writer's retreat' where writers come to get the peace and tranquility they need to write their novels and whatnot. Nick Hartiman dubs them UFF's (Unpublished Fifties Females) which I found amusing because that is what I imagine the clientele would be made up of for a place like that! They all hang onto his every word and giggle at his jokes because they are both in awe of his success and also hoping he can help them get published...funny but also quite sad in a way.

Overall, I adored this graphic novel and am glad I can add it to my ever growing pile of beautiful books. It is printed on thick, high quality paper and is lovely to feel and look at. The story is intriguing and you really want to know what will happen to the characters. 

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: 'Literary Life' by Posy Simmonds

Three Words to Describe this Book: Charming. Scandalous. Pretty.


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