Petrichor by Gareth Hopkins front cover featuring a recoloured photograph of a beach with two children playing in the waves

Paper Underground Awards – Most Romantic Work

Most Romantic work

Petrichor – by Gareth Hopkins (shop here)

This is my book of the year, no quibbles.

Until I read Gareth’s work, I would never have said that either romance or auto-biography would be the most important and urgent style I’m encountering in comics.

Yet, when I read this book I was moved nearly to tears, to rethink my own attitudes and to a sense of admiration for what was being said on these pages. I think Gareth’s work is amazing. I always have, from the moment I first saw it. But, generally, I’ve admired the images and the textures, structures, marks and sequencing. His work was very much visual pleasure.

Then he wrote Petrichor and later worked on Intercorstal: Extension which I’ve previously reviewed. Intercorstal: Extension was published prior to Petrichor, even though it was created after it. In both works the writing developed an elliptical, poetic and rhythmic style that dealt with life and memory as experiences rather than narrative. It’s almost poetry, but it’s not. I’d say it’s a clipped version similar in style to JG Ballard’s early novels, like The Drowned World. But somehow warm and human and emotionally affecting, whereas Ballard’s words are the experience of ennui.

Many works are labelled as being about love and death, it’s a great review cliché – this work is truly about the experience of both, of how living life comes with waves and troughs, how we change whilst staying the same person, maybe with altered priorities.

To be fair – it’s not going to be for everyone, it’s not narrative, it’s got no images of things, there’s marks and short, clipped lines of text. But if you let yourself experience it, it’s like being in the heart and mind of that person as life happens around them. Beautiful and poignant. Ultimately, it’s satisfying to see a book dedicated to sharing an individual’s humanity and love.

iestyn

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