Talking to Gina by Ottilie Hainsworth
|Talking to Gina by Ottilie Hainsworth|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A break from the graphic novel form, in a bijou and heartfelt missive to a dog.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Myriad Editions|
|External links: Author's website|
This is what happened. An artist decided she needed a dog – so drove the length of the country, Brighton to Grimsby, to pick up an Eastern European immigrant street dog with some mange and one working eye. Why not? The first night at home, Gina – the dog – eats something she shouldn't and causes a mess, so it's not a great start, but then begin the tribulations of training, status and behaviour all humans must go through with their dogs. And then, the life with Gina begins to feel like too much – I felt weird about you, because you were always there. My thoughts were taken over by you, and I felt sick, as if I was in love. Slowly, however, everyone – our artist/author, her husband, two children and two cats – gets to form the family they and Gina all would have wanted.
This is such a standard story, you may think, that it would take a standout book to make it worthwhile experiencing on the page. But rest assured this can come close to being a standout volume. It's a small format graphic novel, with a square page little bigger than a token desk calendar. That quote above regarding love is one of the very rare instances where there is more than one sentence on the page, and generally we get one image per page too, although rules here are forever broken.
The presentation is worth mentioning more, for it raises a few questions the book doesn't answer. The handwritten text varies very much in depth of shade, as if this is a reproduction of more than one colour of ink, although I can't see why that would be so. There also appears to be more than one colour in the images as well – perhaps black and red as the cover would attest – but the images are all monotone here. They're very loose, sketchy and rather scrappy at times, with definite signs of pages being revised and worked on being visible close to the end. I can see that this looseness (and the purely alien-looking cars), the quirky little pop-up sound effects and the minimal dialogue will make the format of the book not something for everyone.
Chiefly, however, this is the tale of the woman absorbing the dog into her life and vice versa, and sending a love letter to it in strictly poetic and warm, yet also no-nonsense, fashion. Your fur was rather bristly and your ears moved about. Your tail dangled like a sausage, or sprang up. Your nose was hard at work. It's blatantly stated that Gina doesn't look the traditional loved dog, with everyone thinking her to be a fox. There's no sense of anthropomorphism – our author can work out what the dog is thinking and why she is behaving in certain ways, but we don't get put inside the canine head to that end.
So is this book for everyone? Well, to repeat – the small graphic style, and the quickness of just one character-full image and line per page will have some people saying 'this isn't what the doctor ordered' (I say that not to put anyone off, it's just a fact). Also, without giving too much away, I'd advise you to notice that everything I have quoted has been in the past tense. This may well be too emotional ultimately for some, but that's the point of this book – a thank-you to a dog that became a vital cog in a family's life. I don't actually know if the creator was an artist before this book was out – I termed her such at the beginning of this review because she certainly is now. This is very much a full work of art, and one with pleasant depth behind its veneer of rough-and-readiness.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
There's a sense of Gina here being the dog that only its owner could adore – The Dog Nobody Loved by Jon Katz conveys that as well.
You can read more book reviews or buy Talking to Gina by Ottilie Hainsworth at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Talking to Gina by Ottilie Hainsworth at Amazon.com.
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