The book to graphic novel phenomenon

17 Jan

Several years ago, I read Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, who was born in Kiev in 1903, but fled to France with her family in 1917. The novel is made up of the first two parts of a planned five-part novel that was never finished because Némirovsky was arrested by the Germans and died in Auschwitz in 1942.

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I recently discovered that Part I, Storm in June,  has been turned into a graphic novel by Emmanuel Moynot, a graphic artist and the author of more than 40 graphic novels published in France.

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Publisher’s Summary:A stirring graphic novel based on the extraordinary book by Irene Nemirovsky.

Suite Française, an extraordinary novel about village life in France just as it was plunged into chaos with the German invasion of 1940, was a publishing sensation ten years ago; Irene Nemirovsky completed the two-volume book, part of a planned larger series, in the early 1940s before she was arrested in France and eventually sent to Auschwitz, where she died. The notebook containing the novels was preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998; it was finally published in France in 2004 and became a huge international bestseller, including in North America, where it has sold over 1 million copies.

This dramatic and stirring graphic novel, translated from the French and faithful to the spirit of Nemirovsky’s story, focuses on Book 1, entitled “Storm in June,” in which a disparate group of Paris citizens flees the city ahead of the advancing German troops. However, their orderly plans to escape are eclipsed by the chaos spreading across the country, and their sense of civility and well-being is replaced by a raw desire to survive.

This is an excellent retelling of the first part of Némirovsky’s novel. The use of black and white drawings gives the feel of a 1940’s movie about WWII. It also captures the bleakness of the situation.

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Books to graphic novels is a trend that seems to be increasing. Several children’s and YA series have gone this route, including

  •  Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
  • The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
  • The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransome Riggs

Classics by authors such as Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have also been turned into graphic novels, as has the very popular Game of Thrones  series. I think the are both excellent and worrisome things about this trend, but, as a reader, I don’t mind taking a little break with a graphic novel from time to time.

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