I'm back from vacation, and straight into the swing of things with today's blog tour stop for : Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu! This graphic novel is an interesting one that I think may be divisive, which I touched on in my April Rewind. Keep reading to see what I thought, and then enter to win a copy!
Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu
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Contemporary/Graphic Novel, 128 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by First Second
Zoe isn't exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn't recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment...and into his life. It's also why she doesn't know that Rocher is supposed to be dead. Turns out, Rocher faked his death years ago to escape his critics, and has been making a killing releasing his new work as "lost manuscripts," in cahoots with his editor/ex-wife Agathe. Neither of them would have invited a crass party girl like Zoe into their literary conspiracy of two, but now that she's there anyway. . . . Zoe doesn't know Balzac from Batman, but she's going to have to wise up fast... because she's sitting on the literary scandal of the century!
As I'd mentioned in my rewind for last month, I have a feeling that people are going to end up at opposite ends of the like/dislike spectrum when it comes to this book -- I don't think there will be a lot of middle ground, and it certainly won't be the book for everyone. I, myself, wasn't entirely convinced in the beginning, because I didn't really love the main character, which made me feel a little disconnected from the story, which can then translate to indifference, which is the death-knell of any book. I read something recently about "unlikable" characters that's been bothering me a bit (among other things that I read in the piece, and it's something I want to address in the coming days, because I have things to say), so I want to clarify by this that I don't think you need to have a lovable, huggable main character for a book to be successful, and unlikable can mean a lot of things; some use it to mean poorly written/realized, but when I use it, I'm almost always going to mean, kind of an ass. Zoe's kind of an ass. Her boyfriend is most definitely an ass. Rocher, yep, he's an ass, too. (I like Agathe, though. She gets a pass.) So it's a book peopled with characters that don't necessarily make you love them or root for them, which can leave people feeling ambiguous (or disconnected, as I said), and that's why I think it may be divisive and cause some irritated reactions.
But a book with unlikable characters is still capable of being successful, and developing a rich, interesting world -- plenty of classics and acclaimed books have unlikable characters; some unlikable characters inexplicably become fan-favorites -- so I'm always willing to go with it and see how things turn out, especially when it's as quick a read as this. And fortunately, though I was so hesitant with Zoe in the beginning, and found her to be a bit bratty, the story remains engaging and interesting, and has a streak of honesty (ironic, amidst the dishonesty at the heart of the book) that kept me entertained and pulled along, and I'm glad of that. Because for all that the characters are kinda d-bags, it all became more amusing for me as it went on, all the way up to the twist at the end, which I won't spoil, other than to say, that's another thing that might irritate people, but I found it oddly delightful. It was an absurd little bit of poetic justice that, even though heavy-handed, was so darkly humorous and fitting that I couldn't help but be tickled by it.
I found the simple style and muted colors of the art expressive and charming, and the clean understatedness really worked well with the story. Again, that may not be to everyone's taste, but stylistically, it was distinct and I felt it suited the story, and added to the overall feel. So all in all, there are certainly "outs" to the story -- there are things across the board that may make some readers check out and not like it. But there are plenty of "ins" too, and the expressiveness and personality of the story, characters and style, combined with the poetic justice and humor of the end work together to make it something I actually quite enjoyed, and would recommend -- for the right reader.
And if you think you're the right reader, then you should enter this . . .
To celebrate the US release of this French import, the fine folks at FirstSecond have offered up a copy of Exquisite Corpse to one lucky winner!
Giveaway is open to US only (sorry INT'L folks! But as I said, this book is originally French, so to be fair, you've had five years on us to enjoy it out there in the wider world... ;P ), and is open until May 19th at 11:59 pm.
Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter.
And make sure to check out more of the EXQUISITE CORPSE blog tour here, and find more chances to win!
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