Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton

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Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Monsters – are they around us courtesy of folklore, or our expectations, or are they entirely personal? An unusual question to be raised by an unusual and interesting graphic novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9781908434210

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Monsters are all around us, we are told, and Fran should know. She opens each chapter of her episodic story here with a new monster – a golem, an incubus, or perhaps something less well known. But there are subtly monstrous events in her life as well – an alleged boyfriend with a measly attitude, a fake medium, a summer of retaking GCSEs, and more – as well as the biggest, blackest, visitation – something that should bring succour, family and friendship but cannot be handled.

It's said that everyone has a novel in them – piffle, I know. Even fewer people have a graphic novel in them, so this debutante book discovered partly through a competition is really quite a surprise. It brings subtle intelligence to its layout – the fact that the everyday is on a grey page, whereas the guttering between the images of both Fran's dreams and her bestiary are pure white. I can't bring myself to reveal the plot – it's all in the blurb, dammit – but the book is about how much of a dream is reality, and how much monsters in our mind are real.

But intelligence or not there is a recognition that I failed to engage with this as successfully as I should. The cover tells you on two occasions of a sense of humour, and I didn't find it funny. Life here is bizarre – in-jokes with nan about Fran cutting her corns off for her and so on – but the mood was for me very different to that of a comedic book. Fran's life is quite desultory – her girlfriend is full of dreams, her boyfriend full of something else that is perhaps less easily shrugged off. This summer – and we ask why it has been set in 1993 in dread of some autobiographical detail we wouldn't wish on our creator – is a bright one full of a lot of darkness.

I have used the word 'subtle' a couple of times now, and I will repeat the work 'intelligence', for it is to the fore here. The encyclopaedic monster introductions actually break up the story in several different ways, punctuating it with the unexpected on first reading, but with an obvious clarity on re-reading, which shows they have diffused and drawn attention away from the plot. I'm afraid to say that's been done too well, for the telling of what is a fairly slight tale – despite that intelligence, and some superb pencil and ink design and shading – is given a depth that can be slightly counter-productive. The end result looks great, and is very thoughtful – clever, perhaps – and intimate, but perhaps is too personal to be universally successful.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Whether you missed the fuss raised by Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart being nominated for major literature awards in 2012 or not, it is still worth investigation

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