The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks
|The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A perfect evocation of the redundant feeling of old age. Forget it's been authored by a celebrity: it's far, far better than that might lead you to suspect. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 80||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Particular Books|
|External links: Author's website|
There's a man who has an ice cream van. In summer, what there is of summer, he uses it to sell ice creams, That's not his vocation though, but it does keep him going whilst he waits for winter, when the van becomes a Gritting Van and our narrator becomes a Gritterman. The fibreglass 99s on the roof light up and rotate, playing a tune, whether the van's gritting or selling ice creams. Tonight - Christmas Eve - will be the van's last trip. The council has sent the letter about his services no longer being required. Global warming. Dying profession, they say. There's even a tarmac now that can de-ice itself, but the Gritterman isn't sure that he wants to live in a world where the B2116 doesn't need gritting.
Like our hero the van's old. Here she is. Talk about last legs. I wouldn't buy her, but I wouldn't see her either. There are some good things though: when the windscreen wipers are going full pelt the make a beautiful 'waffopping' sound. Like geese wings on take-off. You know exactly the sound he means, don't you? There's a joy in working at night though and our hero's glad to be out there after his microwaved meal-for-one turkey chow mien. It's better than missing his other Joy - his wife who died.
It's a perfect evocation of what old age feels like. You do your best to help, to be useful and there's a real comfort in that, but somehow you become redundant. What you do is seen as unnecessary, even though the people you do it for are appreciative: our hero's only got to see the people who've queued behind his gritting van, waiting their turn.Then one by one they drive past, cheering from their windows. Beeping their horns and flashing their lights.
The illustrations perfectly complement the story. The colours are muted. The snow scenes make you feel physically cold. I loved the pictures of the Gritterman: several times I wanted to give him a hug but I'm sure he'd have told me not to be so silly. The highest praise I can give the pictures is that they are perfectly of a piece with the wonderful story: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
There's something I've been avoiding mentioning and the sharp-eyed amongst you will have spotted it. The author, Orlando Weeks, was the former frontman of The Maccabees. He trained as an illustrator before spending a decade with the band and I really didn't want you to think that this was another celebrity cashing in on their fame. The book is far, far better than that. One advantage though is that you can listen to or download a companion album featuring ten new tracks by Orlando Weeks.
I'm not going to read The Gritterman again for a while: I've read it three times and each time, I've cried. I might leave it a couple of hours before I have another look. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator), although you might not cry quite as much.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks at Amazon.com.
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