‘A page-turning, Kafkaesque dark comedy in brilliant retro style, this graphic novel watches one man try to keep it together while everything falls apart.’ – reads the description for ‘The Book Tour’ by Andy Watson. However, this title specifically reminded of ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus. Both Kafka and Camus were known for the absurdist, existential nature of their works and Andy Watson does incorporate those elements to tell his story.
The book follows little known writer G. H. Fretwell, who bids farewell to his wife and leave for a tour to promote his latest published novel. While he grapples with one poor show after another in book-shops, Fretwell unwittingly becomes a suspect in the murder case of a woman. While I do enjoy peculiar absurdist exaggerated works now and then, ‘The Book Tour’ failed to hit a chord with me. It was a frustrating read, even though Fretwell’s experiences as a fairly unknown author were depressingly real.
Watson captures the mundane painful life of a unsuccessful writer too well, but apart from that, the graphic novel has little to offer. The artwork were like scrawls off a cartoonist’s notebook, adding a slight touch of raw reality to the otherwise idiosyncratic plot. The black-and-white panels with their simple strokes are reminiscent of newspaper strips from the 1940s. Both the absurd nature of the plot and retro style art makes it very hard to ascertain what timeline things are supposed to be set in. But in all honesty, it doesn’t even matter, given the strange nature of events unfolding through the novel.
Fretwell’s book tour is definitely straight out of a Kafkaesque nightmare. He first loses his suitcase to a conman, then goes to book signings where nobody shows up, finds himself staying at weird hotels; his publishers don’t seem to value his time and then… there’s the whole business of becoming a murder suspect. Maybe a lot of readers would enjoy Watson’s graphic novel, it’s a depressingly lonely tale and I wasn’t in the mood to read something like it.
It’s a 2/5 from me.
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