Because of Nick Hornby’s gushing and the infuriating anti-graphic novel discussion from my classmates a couple weeks ago, I got myself a copy of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel from the library. If I could make my classmates read this graphic novel/memoir they would all be forced to eat their hats.
The art is great. It is monochromatic but far from being boring it does well to serve the story. Color would be too flashy and distracting. Monochrome adds a layer of storytelling to the text. Instead of competing with the text for attention it supports it, conveying details and heightening emotion.
The text, the story, is phenomenal. It is about Bechdel’s childhood and coming of age and realizing in college that she was a lesbian. Her story is also her father’s story. She figures out early that her father is a little different, not like the other fathers. Her father is into period restoration of their house, home decoration, gardening. He teaches English but he also runs the family business, a funeral home, or “fun home” in family shorthand. He is always bringing home young men, hiring them as babysitters or to help him in the garden. When she is older, Alison learns her father has had affairs with some of these young men. These affairs have affected his relationship with his wife and his children. The contrast between Bechdel’s ability to embrace who she is and be out about it and how liberating and empowering it is for her contrasts with her father’s inability to be out which leads to his tragic end.
Bechdel and her father both share a love of books and reading. Bookish references run throughout the story with one whole chapter being titled “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.” Bechdel uses the story of Daedalus and Icarus to illuminate the relationship between her and her father. For instance, at one point, she is wondering if her father really cares about his family or if they are only there to lend an air of authenticity to the scene:
Then there are those famous wings. Was Daedalus really stricken with grief when Icarus fell into the sea? Or just disappointed by the design failure?
By the end of the book, however, Bechdel understands her father better and provides us a moving conclusion.
Okay, that’s enough. I’m done trying to be reviewer-ly. Now I’m just going to gush. I loved this book! Read it, read it, it is really good. Promise.