Sunday, 3 November 2013

Billy, Me and You - a graphic novel memoir by Nicola Streeten

Sometimes achingly sad, at other times funny and ultimately uplifting, Nicola Streeten's book tackles the complexities of grief: how we manage grief ourselves and how we deal with it in others. 

Billy, Me and You is an account of Nicola and her husband's lives immediately after the sudden death of their two-year-old son, Billy. Though the drawings are based on diaries written 13 years before they have a rawness and immediacy that is very affecting. The sparse design of the book sits lightly on the story but cleverly holds it all together. I find the juxtaposition of the tiny empty pushchair against the big black letters of the title on the front cover extremely moving. Pages seemingly ripped from a diary contain reflective drawings and text, apparently created in more recent times, that help us understand what has gone before.

The humour comes from Nicola's ability to stand back from situations and to see the absurdity in her own and other people's actions. Though she sometimes inwardly rages against the words or behaviour of others she recognises the difficulties that others face in reaching out to her and is always compassionate.

This is also a account of the strength of Nicola's relationship with her husband and the various ways they support each other through their shock and grief. There can be no happy ending to a story like this - nothing can take away their loss - but I was left feeling optimistic and uplifted by the unshakeable trust and bond that Nicola and her husband have with each other.

I can't finish this post without mentioning the afterword. It brings the story up to date and includes a funny account of how Nicola Streeten met Sarah Lightman and Laydeez do Comics came into being.

No comments:

Post a Comment