Shaun Tan is a wonderfully evocative author and artist who never fails to make you feel with his books. Here he captures the melancholy sensation that we all have from time to time, of confusion in our lives and the inevitability of less than good things happening.
Life is a bind and we all know it but this idea is vividly realised through the combination of words and art in this perfectly formed book. its elegant look at an everyday life is something I found myself nodding along to throughout.
The story is of a girl in the thrall of these often inexplicably wistful emotions, the message is about not being alone in feeling this way, you are never alone in your isolation…how many of us go through the day like this, shut off in our own heads when to be human is to experience these things and as such perhaps it is best to embrace the feelings and turn it into something wonderful like Tan has masterfully done.
The artwork makes the bizarre seem commonplace. This imagined world is a strange, weird and scary place, a cold corner like our world, but one of wonder mirroring that which we don’t see for we are so wrapped up in our own worries. It’s a clever idea, perhaps our viewpoints should always be to look at the beauty and the wonderful things – even the mundane is fantastic sometimes – and experience everything anew everyday and really believe life is bigger than we are.
For such a short book this is truly a story of optimism for all ages, with its short sentences, surreal illustrations and ultimately an ending that deservedly does make you happy. It shows the kernel of something good after all the bad stuff and alienation that swirls around each day like a particularly persistent bad weather front. By no means elucidating a profound message, this reader couldn’t help feeling that its mild message is precisely that, one hidden in plain sight.
To view this book as anything less than a life affirming optimistic experience would be to sell it short. From the ordinary and mundane bursts forth a creative life that could be fantastic if only we would look out of our own woes and at the inventiveness of nature and the great things in everyday life. the grey world is in fact not so lacklustre once you have been a part of this adventure. It’s a book I would call flawless and I don’t say that to often.