Bandes Dessinées (BDs) are a staple of my French holidays. Ever since childhood, I remember walking past the rows and rows of graphic novels in the supermarket. And the thing that got me was that they were just so simply *there*. Not tucked away in some specialist little shop, or hidden ashamedly round the back of a pillar, or rammed onto a tiny shelf. They were just there. Quite content and proud and ridiculously exciting.
Reading books like this is total detective based fun. My French is wobbly (I can feed and water myself but tenses and more elaborate structures are way out of my ken) but I managed to work out so much from these books. Graphic novels have the intense joy of being read visually as well as textually so even if you just pick out the pictures you get a story. I’m really sad these sort of books weren’t used in my French lessons – I’d have died of happiness if they were. So take a risk! Pick one of them up! If I’d never have badgered my mum to let me have a gorgeous book about unicorns, I’d never have learnt the French word for unicorn* – and that’s a life-skill in itself!
On my most recent holiday to visit family I took the opportunity to pick up a few more titles. I admit there was a point when I stood in the middle of the aisle and shrieked something along the lines of “ONE EURO EACH? COR WHAT A DEAL!” and um maybe elbowed an innocent or two out of the way in my raptures.
And here’s what I found.
Le Missionaire. Number One: Messages by Buscaglia and Crippa I struggle to coherently formulate my love for this book. It starts with an Apocalypse Now-esque flashback of a scarred war veteran who ends up working with the Vatican in order to confirm the legitimacy of miracles. There are nuns (NUNS WITH SECRETS), mysterious villages and some superbly moody artwork. Brilliant.
Quartier M : Book 1/3 Felures by Benjo, Zano, Beauverger. This is a dystopian vision of the future drawn in a stunningly evocative manner. It’s quite laconic in places both visually and textually. Essentially (and my French got very iffy on this one), there’s a suburb where the adults are all amnesiacs and as a result of this the kids are running the joint. There’s a more coherent precis available here but even with my wobbly French I fell in love with the relationship between the two central children and the West Side Story-esque interplay between the gangs.
Nefesis: Tome 1: Resurrections by Camboni and Filippi. Of all the books I picked up, this was the one I struggled with the most. I *think* this book is about a female scholar of Egyptian artefacts who turns into something like Catwoman on an evening. Amazing no? Or at least it would have been if I could have coped with the awful stylised lettering. Not one that I’ll be coming back to.
Les Mondes D’Aldebaran 1: La Catastrophe by Leo. OH MY GOD THIS BOOK. Of all of the books I read, this by far won the THIS IS A LITTLE BIT BONKERS prize. Essentially what happens here is that we’re on an alien planet (detailed geographical notes available on the inner covers) and it’s all going a little pear-shaped. The sea is solidifying, amazing whale-slug things are being found on shore, and the planet is having a major freak out session. This book is amazing and nuts and sort of spectacular.
Alpha: L’Echange by Jigounov / Renard. This is a more traditional (I say traditional, none of these books are really traditional, they’re all brilliant) crime book. My French got a bit patchy in it again so my precis is going to be a little iffy. Essentially there’s this guy, he has something some other guys want so they kidnap him and for some reason there’s a parallel plot of a foxy Russian lady doing the sights of Paris (the Louvre etc) with some other bloke who thinks she’s all innocent but she’s not she’s got SECRETS.
La Derniere Reine: Tome 1 Le Cobra Du Nul by Weber / Caracuzzo. Okay, so in a haul of a couple of books I got dystopia, hard science fiction, alternative history, and crime. This book is all about Egypt and taught me how to say “Get out of the way, my boss the King is coming through and you really should make space” (“Faites place! Faites place!” *evil glare at the poor people*).