Lucie Durbiano, Orage et Désespoir (2006)

This book is a middle grade graphic novel, sweet and strange by all accounts.

It all begins with the pun in the title, but I’m at a loss to explain it to English speakers. The classic play Le Cid by 17th century author Pierre Corneille has a famous line where the main actor declares “o rage, o despespoir”, and about every high school student in France has to memorize this monologue. Now, the two sisters’ names in this graphic novel are “orage” (storm) and “desespoir” (despair), as if these were normal first names, which of course isn’t.

With such ominous names, the sisters are bound to get into weird adventures…

The novel starts like a classic teenaged story, 4 teenagers flirting and slightly bored during their holidays by the sea, whose parents are too busy elsewhere to really care about what they do. It looks like Brittany, like a Rohmer movie, both very prosaic, firmly set in daily references, but also wildly imaginative and romantic.

Because soon enough the 4 teenagers are embarked in a weird and increasingly dark adventure with fantastic and even gothic elements. Sirens, corpses, a century-old curse on the “Island of the dead women”…

Dubiano’s style is very pure and slightly naive, so at first we’re deceived into thinking it might be “kawai” stories, but then she gets into gothic territory, which would be terrifying if not for her big-eyed characters and simple lines. This discrepancy gives to her story a distance that adults will enjoy for her touch of humor, and that will make it more readable for the younger audience. But some readers might find it disturbing, because she never chooses between the light and the dark sides of her story, which remains a bit unequal.

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One thought on “Lucie Durbiano, Orage et Désespoir (2006)

  1. When I worked in a bookshop I used to love graphic novels. Have never really picked them up since, but this looks like a fun one for teenagers. When my girls are old enough to learn French I think I’ll try them on a few graphic novels too. Nice to see you still have time for reviews 🙂

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