I bought Days of the Bagnold Summer at the British Library. We’d gone there to view the exhibition on comic books: Comics Unmasked. The exhibition was good and focused mainly on British books through the ages from Punch Magazine up to Warrior and beyond. it was great to see original pages of artwork and the typed scripts of Alan Moore and others. The exhibition is on until the 19th of August and is well worth a look if you’re heading to London. You can find out more about it here.
I think there was a reference to Days of the Bagnold Summer in the exhibition, after all, it’s the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for the Costa novel award. I bought it primarily for my wife, I’m slowly bringing her over to the dark side of story telling. She thoroughly enjoyed it.
Joff Winterhart tells a funny, sad, moving story with economy and wit. It’s a simple tale of a teenage boy having to spend the summer with his mother. Danny had been expecting to spend it in Florida with his father and stepmother. Initially he’s relieved but soon mother and son start to grate upon each other.
Joff splits the story into six weeks with each week consisting of 9-10 pages and each page broken down into six equal panels. The art work is simple black and white pencils and Winterhart’s real strength lies in his facial expressions. Some of the teenage disgust he manages to get into Danny’s face is simply sublime.
I’m not going to give anything away concerning the story, you’ll need to read it. The tension between mother and son and her fears relating to her son, based upon what happened in her past, are excellently realised as is Danny’s pain in the arse mate, KY. KY is such a dick that a lot of the humour comes through him and his view of himself and the world. It all struck a chord with me. Not that I was ever into Heavy Metal when I was younger – or now – just that I’m sure we can all remember feeling awkward around members of the opposite sex and wanting to fit in but also, being well aware that we don’t. Or maybe you were lucky and never went through any of that? Git.
I would recommend this to anyone and challenge them not to like it, but especially for those of you who may not read comics. Days of the Bagnold Summer shows just what you can do with only six frames and a few carefully chosen words. Well done Joff Winterhart.