Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on the blog tour for Exquisite Corpse, the newly released English translation of Penelope Begieu's French graphic novel. I'm so happy to be working with First Second books to promote Penelope and this quirky little graphic novel. After my review you can enter to win your own copy of Exquisite Corpse. Also check out the other entire schedule for the blog tour over on First Second's website here.
I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in return for being part of the tour.
Released May 5, 2015
Graphic Novel / Modern Fiction
Find it on Goodreads (though the blurb gives away things!)
Zoe isn't exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn't recognize world famous author Thomas Rocher when she sumbles into his apartment... and into his life.
Zoe doesn't know Balzac from Batman, but she's going to have to wise up fast because Rocher has a terrible secret and now Zoe is sitting on the literary scandal of the century.
So that is the blurb on the inside cover of the book First Second sent over to me, not what is on Goodreads. I felt like the Goodreads blurb gave away the twist that made Exquisite Corpse really interesting, so if you want to know about it, click on the Goodreads link above.
I didn't know much about this book prior to agreeing to review it other than it involved an author and potential had some writerly themes. I just really wanted to work with First Second books, so I was game for anything they needed from me. Between the title and the tagline - "Dying to be an author." - I thought this book involved zombies, which is in my wheelhouse.
This book is not about zombies.
Instead for the first 2/3rds of this very colorful and comically illustrated graphic novel, we're treated to a relationship drama starring Zoe, a discontent 22-year-old who has no direction, no goals, and no drive to create a better life for herself. She's stuck in a deadend job as a booth babe, where she has to be nice to disgusting men that constantly hit on her and are inappropriate at best. She goes home each night to an unemployed slob of a boyfriend, who does little more than watch tv, scratch his junk and fart in bed.
It's a dismal life until fate introduces her Thomas, a hermit writer who happens to be a world-famous author. Suddenly there is light and goodness in her life, even if it does mean moving into Thomas's lavish apartment and never really leaving. It's better that getting grabbed by strangers at conventions and living with a man who doesn't seem to care if you even come home.
Then one day Zoe learns Thomas' secret, and the book changes from relationship drama, kicks into hyper speed and becomes something a little more twisted. The final third speeds by quickly until I was cheering at the ending. Penelope Begieu knows how to take a straight forward story and suddenly make it much more.
This book feels very French to the point I figured it had to be a translation without knowing it for a fact when two characters are casually smoking by page 6. There is also casual female nudity, though never gratuitous, and various sexual relationships are treated as nothing special. Overall it has an atmospheric nature to the storytelling that felt unusual yet incredibly refreshing to read.
The art itself is more towards the Sunday comic strip style of big eyes and generally simple shapes, and most cases colors are used in a muted palate. The occasional splashs of color reflect changes in Zoe's mentality, while her time with Thomas in his hermit lifestyle start to become monotonous. It's a very straight-forward art style that assists the story without taking away from the narrative style.
Without the twist, Exquisite Corpse probably wouldn't have been for me. It was all very simplistic relationship drama until then, but sudden Penelope Begieu twisted the entire story, flipping her characters upside down and creating even more drama that really livened up the entire story. This was a fun, quick read with a quirky personality that I'd recommend, especially for people not into comics but willing to give the non-capes-and-types variety a try.
Enter to Win a Copy of Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Begieu
Thanks to First Second, we have a hard copy of Exquisite Corpse to give away. This contest is open to anyone with a US mailing address and will run until May 15.