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The Arrival – Shaun Tan

31 Oct

Christmas is indeed a time of year and it has nothing to do with this book whatsoever, except for being a really good present for everyone, even non readers, due to the universally accessible nature of there being no words at all.

What drives so many of us to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless and the future is unknown.  

This then is a story, told from the point of view of a man leaving his family, to find and start a better life for them in foreign parts. Here we follow the struggles and confusions, worries and hopes of refugees and immigrants in their plight.

Being presented in the style of a sepia tinted silent film, gives the book a very displaced sense of time which coupled with the sense of location disorientation fits in neatly with the perplexed feelings of the character and immediately opens you up to the fantastical sights that frequently pop up.

Each panel has something to say, from the small and intimate to the drawings that have an epic feel. The lack of any accompanying text really allows your mind to delve into this world and experience all the emotions that these characters feel and convey many other ideas and stories that have nothing to do with the plot but help you flesh out these people in your own mind. A lot of thought gone into crafting each image and I suspect each person will take some new thoughts, ideas or perspectives away each time they come back to this.

Although the narrative is set in what I can only describe as a ‘dreamscape of magic’, the struggles and experiences of the characters are grounded in a reality that we can all readily put ourselves into and understand.  Especially the battle to understand a foreign society language and the correct cultural etiquette of doing things.  The use of symbols to depict an unknown language in this work helps us sympathise more effectively of the undertaking of such a huge endeavour.

Shaun tan always does deeply enjoyable atmospheric work, The Red Tree and Tales From Outer Suburbia are other books I would highly recommend but for sheer range of emotions on that are brought to the fore, everything from loss, sadness, longing, happiness, vulnerability and worry (to name a few), this though, is his most powerful and critically acclaimed work.

So what is stopping you getting this for Christmas?  I would be interested to know if anyone gets this for someone and then keeps it for themselves, which is always justified when it comes to gifts in my view. The picture below by the way is not the most epic in the book but I thought gave a sense of the grand scale of the book. Plus the really grandiose stuff you really have to see for yourselves in context.  So now you have no excuse not to go and buy at least one copy.

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26 Comments

Posted by on 31/10/2012 in Graphic Novels

 

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26 responses to “The Arrival – Shaun Tan

  1. LuAnn

    31/10/2012 at 17:21

    My book list continues to grow, thanks to you Ste J. I so look forward to your book reviews. Thanks again. 🙂

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    • StetotheJ

      31/10/2012 at 17:45

      I’m all for a growing book list, I see it as one in the eye for e-readers. Thanks for you support, as always.

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  2. gargoylebruce

    01/11/2012 at 01:34

    Extra points for an awesome Australian author/illustrator!

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    • StetotheJ

      01/11/2012 at 06:15

      I knew there was something I forgot to add in, there always is when you are distracted by the shiny lights of other internet pages. This one did actually feature different kinds of flashing lights as well, I’m not being dramatic.

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  3. klumpigy

    01/11/2012 at 01:46

    I remember being in primary school when this came out – it won book of the year and we studied it ( as well as 12 year old do) . Shaun Tan is a much beloved Australian author and this book really made an impact. It is such a beautiful book that tells so much without actually saying anything. Oh and I definitively believe it ought to be on the Christmas lists. Buying gifts for someone and then keeping them is defiantly allowed ( so long as you don’t then forget them all together)

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    • StetotheJ

      01/11/2012 at 06:19

      Now you have said it, it becomes law and I shall be quoting verbatim your last two sentences. I know this book gets all the love but I think I prefer Tales From Outer Suburbia more, I like a bit of whimsy as you know. Add in the idea of magical things happening to the mundane and I’m pretty much set for a happy day strolling through the pages.

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  4. RoSy

    01/11/2012 at 02:37

    This would be perfect for…ME!

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    • StetotheJ

      01/11/2012 at 06:13

      All you need is the cunning excuse of Christmas to splash out on a nice treat for yourself, after all it is the season of giving, no one said to whom though.

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  5. pennycoho

    04/11/2012 at 08:20

    Wonderful review. He’s great isn’t he! It took him 7 years to finish that book. The backstory of the making of the book is as interesting as the book itself. He said each page took about a week to finish because the renderings were all done free hand. Awesome huh. A great book, I also recommend it highly!

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    • StetotheJ

      04/11/2012 at 09:30

      I didn’t know anything of the backstory, I do get distracted easily though. It can be most annoying to come across a train of thought that you left six months ago because something else came up and have to re-explore the thread again before moving on. Still I shall definitely check out the story behind the book. I think that it’s high time I read some more Tan stuff as well, although that feeling of, there is nothing else to read until he publishes something new is never a fun one.

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      • pennycoho

        04/11/2012 at 17:07

        Easy to do (distraction). The why and how of this particular book is really interesting SteJ, I think you’d enjoy that! Fascinating is the actual thinking that went on as he planned it out and then kept changing things, originally it was going to be both written and illustrated and so forth. Also the reasoning and his personal interest in Immigrants and their story. But the creativity and how it unfolded in his mind to become the book it did – Thats what I loved.

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        • StetotheJ

          05/11/2012 at 17:09

          The writing as well as illustrating makes sense as he does that in all of his other books, and there are some corkers to be had. I will definitely check out the back story, I like that idea,a back story to a story, I would also demand a postscript as well, but I am a completest. I will check it out when I have the time. So soon then!

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          • pennycoho

            05/11/2012 at 17:30

            My take is he is an evolutionary artist discovering for himself not only his limitations but also how much he can change how this genre is seen, viewed and expressed, be true to himself and (sadly) also make a living doing same. He is exceedingly talented. Hope you do have an opportunity to do so.

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            • StetotheJ

              06/11/2012 at 19:31

              He seems like a bit of a pioneer. I love his explorations of melancholy (shocker), in fact I think a trip to Nottingham to pick up more of his stuff is in order. He is easily in my top three graphic novelists. Although that may sound more impressive that is, as it is still a bit of an unexplored region to me.

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              • pennycoho

                06/11/2012 at 19:50

                It’s a bit of an unexplored area in general. But being an artist myself I’m excited by his potential! I think melancholy is a powerful emotion, especially when channeled creatively (hint,hint) :).

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                • StetotheJ

                  06/11/2012 at 19:55

                  I see what you did there. I was mulling it over today (whilst on auto pilot at work) but nothing would come to mind that would work in a post. Annoying as i know you like to see original stuff being posted. I shall write something soon. I agree with you I do need to write some of my own stuff and start getting things published. I shall grab a pint tomorrow that will help, naturally.

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  6. Asha Seth

    05/11/2012 at 12:32

    Great review as always! My TBR pile’s just touched the ceiling. Look forward to reading it sooner. Thanks J. Keep reviewing. 🙂

    -Asha

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    • StetotheJ

      05/11/2012 at 17:06

      Thank you kindly. The plus point with this book is although there are no words and you want to dwell on the art, you tend to move through it swiftly but find yourself coming back to it in short bursts time and again. I would like to see your pile, I bet it has some awesome works in it.

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      • Asha Seth

        07/11/2012 at 05:20

        Well, it piques my interest even more. Guess, that is exactly what I need at this point of time. Something I can keep coming back to. I am really a lot of classics these days and seems this is going to be a good change.

        Glad again StetotheJ. And yes my pile keeps increasing day by day. Just hoping I get all the time to read all of those. You can catch a glimpse of it here http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5040094?shelf=to-read.

        Also, send me an invite if you are GR member too. Would love to check out your piles and shelves too. 😉

        -Asha

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        • StetotheJ

          07/11/2012 at 06:27

          Wow that is one heck of an eclectic mix of books, you have waiting to be read. Very impressive. I shall start updating my Goodreads page again and send you a link, haven’t been on it for a long time except to sign in to check your list today. I am notoriously rubbish at keeping up with things, except this blog of course.

          Kudos for reading the classics, more people would benefit from reading them so it’s always nice to meet up with a fellow fan of the great work of our civilization. I shall send you an invite as soon as I get around to updating. Promise.

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  7. readinpleasure

    03/12/2012 at 17:12

    Wonderful review, StetotheJ.

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    • StetotheJ

      04/12/2012 at 20:02

      It was so easy to write because it was so great, and this makes me happy.

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  8. nancyrae4

    06/04/2014 at 22:33

    I love the idea of this book! In the cluttered times in which we live a book without words is very appealing.

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    • Ste J

      08/04/2014 at 18:50

      It does feel more peaceful and open to interpretation, I found myself making up my own histories for inanimate objects that are illustrated. Any book that can do that is impressive and well worth a (re)read.

      Like

       

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