Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: Britten and Brulightly

Britten and Brulightly
Britten and Brulightly is a noir mystery by Hannah Berry told in graphic novel format.  I first heard about it on  Layers of Thought.  After reading and enjoying Chew (even if that book's description did turn many of you off, I still thoroughly liked how unconventional it was!), I wanted to look into more graphic mysteries, so I was pretty excited to find this book!

Fernandez Britten is a private detective.  He does investigations for paranoid spouses, angry lovers, and a whole gamut of desperate people.  He also never spares them the truth he learns, which is how he earned his nickname of "the Heartbreaker."  When a woman comes to him claiming that her dead fiancee could not have really committed suicide, he takes on her case (with his very unconventional partner), and is led deeper and deeper into a mystery that also involves a former client.

Britten and Brulightly panel
This book oozes noir-ness in abundance.  It is in every gorgeous panel of artwork, in the slight stoop of Britten's shoulders, in the voice of the narration and in every inch of every page.  This is a beautifully illustrated book, done in muted tones that hearken back to the golden age of film.  I could practically hear Sam Spade on the sidelines.  The Jessica Rabbit-esque female in distress, the twists and turns in a sordid plot, backstabbings and secrets and all the rest- it was riveting to read.  And just so fascinating to look at.  Perhaps it's wrong to buy a novel based solely on the cover, but is it wrong to be so entranced by a graphic novel's pictures that you barely register the words?

Probably, as I honestly can't say I followed the plot that well.  That's not to say it was difficult to understand or proceeded at a pace that didn't work for me.  I think I just liked the pictures so much I barely concentrated on the words and sometimes would get confused about who was who and what the history was.  Also, the novel does not have type-written words- it's all written in cursive script, which can sometimes be hard to read.

I did understand enough, though, to get the main gist of the story, even the ending.  I don't wish to give any spoilers away, but by the end of the book, I just felt such deep compassion for Britten.  Throughout the whole book, he looks desperately in need of a hug, and by the end, I wanted nothing more than to step through these water-color-esque pages and give him a big one of the bear variety.  Maybe it's because I'm still new to graphic novels, but it still stuns me that in less than 200 pages, with minimal words, I can feel so strongly about a character.  I can't say much more about this book (as it's a mystery!), except that I highly recommend it for the beautiful art and the melancholy tone.  I look forward to a lot more from Hannah Berry!

14 comments:

  1. You wrote, "is it wrong to be so entranced by a graphic novel's pictures that you barely register the words?" I very much feel this way about many graphic novels. I think the artwork is such an important component of them. I have seen at least two I can think of that I didn't really care about the story but loved looking through every panel! I wonder how the author would feel about that though!

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  2. I've had this one on my stacks for a ridiculously long time, and I really can't believe it's gone unread for this amount of time. I had a really hard time with that darned cursive script when I tried it a while back, so I think that has a lot to do with it.

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  3. The illustrations look amazing! I'm not into graphic novels, probably as I never liked comic books as a kid..LOL

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  4. I read this during last October's readathon. The same way, I got all caught up in the drawings and by the end had no idea how the mystery worked out. It was the sort of book I should have read again, but couldn't because i had to return it to the library. Plus, I was far more interested in the gorgeous art than the story.

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  5. Jill- I wonder about that, too! I have a vague feeling that word and picture should merge to create the story, but... oh, well! This one was just too pretty and the words were too difficult to read for me to not focus on the pictures.

    Andi- Yes, I found the cursive really annoying, too. I am not sure why they used that font...

    Bibliophile by the Sea- I was never into comic books, either! I only started reading GNs in the past year or so.

    Amanda- Yes, the art was super-pretty! Not sure what the story was, exactly, but it seemed pretty intense.

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  6. Ditto to what you've said in this review. This was a truly beautiful collection of images - and there was definitely a story in there too....

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  7. Glad you liked this one :) I till go for those with pretty pictures

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  8. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I've read it twice this year, still don't understand the mystery, and I still don't care! I love the first paragraph and my heart broke at the end.

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  9. I hope my library has this, as this is one of several glowing reviews I've seen for it. Good thing the artwork's pretty, because I absolutely hate it in graphic novels when they use fancy cursive script for the narration. It's okay when a particular character talks in cursive (which happens in the Sandman), but I get frustrated having to read it on every page, to get vital plot information.

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  10. What a gorgeously written review -- I love the way you described the noirish aspects of the pictures. The artwork is beautiful!

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  11. Oh wow! This does sound, and look like a fantastic book. I just love the illustrations that you posted, and think that this sounds like an amazing book. I haven't ever read a graphic novel mystery, but both this book and Chew really have me intrigued with the genre as a whole. I am so thrilled that you fell in love with this book and will be looking into grabbing a copy for myself. It would make a really great change of pace for me right now! Excellent review, Aarti! I could tell you were really enamored of the book!

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  12. The art is so so gorgeous! I think I'd like it for that alone. But what you said about Britten got me very curious as well.

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  13. Not sure the story is interesting enough for me to pick this one up, but the illustrations certainly are!

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  14. The artwork is beautiful, seeming to echo the melancholic narrative. I've had this on my radar for a while but haven't read it yet. I love graphic novels, although I've read a few (mainly the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman). I'm used to reading Japanese manga so although similar, it's a little different.

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