Friday 17 February 2012

Graphic novel review : The House That Groaned - Karrie Fransman

Being a child of the eighties, I can remember when Channel 4 first started being broadcast and they used to show some really weird and wacky fly-on-the-wall documentaries or "alternative comedy" shows that left you shaking your head and saying WHAT the HELL was THAT all about ?! Well, that was exactly my reaction when I turned the final page of The House That Groaned ! It's certainly a literary Marmite that you'll either love or hate and to be perfectly honest, I haven't quite decided what I thought of it yet ! 

The front cover is stunning, with cut away windows giving you intriguing and fascinating glimpses into the rooms and lives of the people inside. This works very well as a metaphor for the book itself. It is impossible to resist moving the cover so that your view of the rooms beyond is enlarged slightly, trying to subtly sneak a peek inside, even if you could just turn to the inside cover to reveal the whole thing because that would just be too easy and spoil the fun. I must have latent voyeuristic tendencies that I never knew about !

But the rather staid, cosy looking house on the front cover lulls you into a false sense of security so you are totally unprepared for the totally eccentric and extreme characters inside. Each of them has a hidden inner persona that is slowly revealed as you progress through the book - the (too) perfect human Barbie make up artist, the formerly obese slimming coach, the OCD-riddled retoucher, the diseasophile who can only get turned on by sick or maimed women, ... In total, there are six residents, whose lives and destinies occasionally intertwine with alarming results. 

As this is a comic book-style graphic novel, the scenes of nudity, sexuality, violent death and depravity are less shocking and offensive than they would be in, say, a film but you can't help but be by turns moved and repulsed by the inhabitants of 141 Rottin Road. But beneath their outrageous behaviour and serious hang-ups, they still have a touching humane side that we can all relate to, with their issues with body image, loneliness and pitiful attempts to overcome past traumas that have shaped the people they have become.

I'm not usually a huge fan of graphic novels because I find them too shallow with superficial, stereoypical characters but that is certainly not true of The House That Groaned. Love it or hate it, you will be thinking about the characters long after you've turned the final page. I think it also one of those books that you will want to come back to, spotting new details in the pictures the second time around. 

Check out the trailer below to get a feel for this surprising book :

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £14.99

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