It took me very little time to read this graphic novel, but as soon as I finished I was ready to start over. At first I thought the book author was French, because it sounded like it, but soon I guessed it was rather a North American story. My guess is Quebec of the 1980s, because kids are sent to camp to practice English, and the boys listen to The Police’s records.
Hélène, the young girl at the center of the book is bullied by a clique of mean girls who suddenly take it against her after having nice to her. What made them change their mind isn’t clear for Hélène, and she finds herself defenseless. There has been an offensive graffiti on her weight scribbled in the toilets. Hélène lacks self-esteem and doesn’t dare raising the issue to her mother who has already lots to worry about. Instead, Hélène gets lost into Jane Eyre, and imagine how Jane would behave in her stead. When Hélène’s class goes to camp, her anxiety worsens and she ends up in the same tent with all the uncool girls. How will she survive camp? Will Jane Eyre be the solution to her problems?
I love the very delicate art of Isabelle Arsenault. The anxiety and loneliness of the character is expressed in the landscape of bleak, monochrome buildings. The handwriting is clumsy and naive. But whenever Hélène turns to Jane Eyre, everything changes, from sad, dark, greyish palette to deep colors, from the block letters to stylish italic. The words are very simple and few, like a prose poem, but you can see and feel so much more through every simple sentence.
It’s a very sensitive way to talk about inner life and the destructive effect of bullying. It will talk to introverts of all ages and to romantic minds. The issue of bullying is very real, but it also talks about loneliness, disconnection and how a new friendship can be miraculous, just as the sudden appearance of a fox in the middle of a wood. It made me remember how passionate a teenager I was when I discovered Jane Eyre. I thought I was the only one to have read such a book and I thought she was speaking to me, even though I didn’t understand everything. This Canadian book, in turn, made me want to re-read Jane Eyre.