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The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

25 Feb

redtreeSo the day began with nothing to look forward to.

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.

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30 Comments

Posted by on 25/02/2014 in Graphic Novels

 

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30 responses to “The Red Tree – Shaun Tan

  1. Seyi sandra

    25/02/2014 at 19:04

    One of your best reviews – I flew through it, and because I trust your judgement, I would buy this in a heartbeat! However, you didn’t put any links, and I’m itching to read this! Could you add a link where readers could purchase a copy? It would be helpful! 🙂 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/02/2014 at 19:47

      Just for you, here is the link for the Amazon.co.uk sellers http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Red-Tree-Shaun-Tan/dp/0734411375/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top I usually don’t add links as people tend to gravitate to the same book selling sites but if more people think it’s needed I will happily add links..I open it to the public…

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      • Seyi sandra

        25/02/2014 at 22:16

        Thanks Ste J, I understand. It’s just that I’m a lazy buyer and time is fleeting these days. I guess it’s the same with other potential buyers… (I’m speaking now as a marketer, not a writer.)

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        • Ste J

          28/02/2014 at 16:26

          Time, there just isn’t enough anywhere, I suspect someone, somewhere is hoarding it until we all run out.

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          • Seyi sandra

            28/02/2014 at 22:18

            I hope we won’t run out soon though! Still got a few more books to write. Hope your day has been good Ste J?

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            • Ste J

              01/03/2014 at 10:16

              I bet time would be a big seller on ebay at high prices. My day was quite good thank you and today hopefully will be better…I hope your weekends is better than a lot of betters at Ladbrokes…especially if they win.

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  2. gargoylebruce

    26/02/2014 at 02:48

    I picked this up many years ago as part of a shock and awe book-buying campaign to stock a new classroom shelf. Then I got it home and read it….and never allowed it out of my sight lest a child stumble upon it and have their soul ripped into little shreds after mistakenly reading it. Good book though.

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2014 at 16:04

      It’s to good for kids…you can’t trust them with their fingers and lack of respect for book corners. Kids have souls? Your part of the world is indeed a strange and wondrous place.

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  3. Claire 'Word by Word'

    26/02/2014 at 08:26

    This sounds like book therapy, the one to keep on the shelf and retrieve in those moments when we need reminding what we do know but sometimes forget and those who can create this feeling through illustrations are gifted indeed.

    I love that experience of being completely in sync with something and understanding it while bereft of words. It is such a gift and a treasure when an artist such as Shaun Tan shares it with us. I’m dying to see this and to share it with my daughter, who makes such pictures, those that speak 1000 words and explain everything without a word ever being uttered.

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2014 at 16:36

      True to form, I left my copy over in America but doing this review was enough to make me feel happy again…in an ideal world, everybody would have procured a copy by now.

      After this one there is another book that goes with it called The lost Thing, which didn’t quite grab me as much but is also well worth the money and trouble to find it…Sometimes words can’t capture an elusive emotion as succinctly as a drawing, or the atmosphere around that drawing…Tan is the ninja of the art world in that respect. I hope he puts that last sentence on the back of his next book.

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  4. LuAnn

    26/02/2014 at 14:06

    You had me at “never fails to make you feel”. This review, my friend, moved this book up to the top of my reading list. Thanks! 🙂

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2014 at 15:57

      And now my challenge is to top the review and inspire a tougher selection for you…I am such a nice sadist, ha!

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      • LuAnn

        04/03/2014 at 22:23

        And I do so love that about you Ste J. 🙂

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  5. thejerseygal®™

    26/02/2014 at 19:24

    Wow! Flawless. And possibly a wake up call for those of us with the winter blues. This is going to the top of my list. Your review, in and of itself, is wonderfully written and gives the reader the pleasure of knowing this will be a worthwhile purchase. You have a way of taking the dingy dark and flipping it around in giving us another option, even just by reading this book.

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2014 at 16:19

      I like to give some sunshine, or something approximating that. The weather has been shocking recently, this I am confident will make everybody feel a bit better. Shaun Tan is one truly underrated creator. Reading is the only hing that keeps me going sometimes…most of the time.

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      • thejerseygal®™

        28/02/2014 at 18:33

        What is winter like on your side of the pond? It’s been harsh here and we have more snow on the way Sunday and Monday. Just when some of the lawn was starting to show again, it’ll be covered up once more. Blah. You do give plenty of sunshine. I visit your blog for that reason. Reading books is a wondrous thing being that mostly everybody has forgotten books exist. Video games, tv, movies, are the current forms of entertainment for most. When I can, I sit in the bookstore and read until closing time.

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        • Ste J

          28/02/2014 at 18:59

          There was a bit of snow over higher ground in the Midlands and down south but other than that it’s just those flood waters that need some receding. I am not a fan of snow at the best of times but each year gets that little bit more mental…

          I haven’t read now for about two weeks, I’ve stupidly been wasting my time on crap things like TV shows and computer games. I need to get my act together I hate being in this mood. I need to snap out of it. I could do with a good book buying session to get me back into it…

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          • thejerseygal®™

            01/03/2014 at 00:49

            I’m not well-versed on English geography. Flood waters! I may have seen that on the mews, but tv has taken a backseat in my life, save for late night. I hope you don’t live in the flood areas. Is that why you haven’t read, because you can’t get to the bookstore or library? Have you ever thought about having a friend send you a book to read? I used to exchange books with friends until I stopped getting my books returned to me or returned in good condition.

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            • Ste J

              01/03/2014 at 10:11

              I really have no excuse for not reading apart from the fact that I am lazy. I did start a new book this morning though and am hoping to have that finished and reviewed soon, the re-revolution starts here! I have a natural mistrust of the post getting my books to where they need to be and vice versa. Besides a lot of readers locally at least seem put off by the books I read. You bloggers are a different prospect though.

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  6. readingwithrhythm

    27/02/2014 at 01:13

    Shaun Tan is a fascinating author/illustrator. Nice review!

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    • Ste J

      28/02/2014 at 15:59

      I love his works, I spend ages just savouring the illustrations.

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  7. Sophie

    02/03/2014 at 07:21

    I cant remember if I told you ages ago, I did try to get hold of this book from the library but they didnt have it in any of the wiltshire libraries! (You can request online). His artwork in a couple of his other books REALLY adds to the book, at least in the other couple I have read by him including one about time. You can spend ages just looking at the pictures. Sounds like a pretty wise book but at the same time short and understandable by all which is definitely a good thing. I usually buy books now, or try to suggest them for Christmas presents if people r stuck! But with a short book I think it’s possibly better to get it from the library. You can always buy it afterwards. Good to see this is still a treasured book as its several years since ylu first recommended it to me so you must have returned to it.

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    • Ste J

      02/03/2014 at 14:43

      I had another read of it on the way to the US and had a smile on my face, flying over the dreary Atlantic ocean, it’s such a simple premise that it is easy to fall in love with and remember it and just be happy with the thoughts it allows us to pursue. It’s worthwhile going for all of his books if you can, if I see one about I will pick it up and send it to you, saves all the annoyances of ordering then.

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  8. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    02/03/2014 at 16:57

    Sounds like a book I should have around to read on days when I’m in a “down mood.”

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    • Ste J

      03/03/2014 at 16:02

      It made me happy to have read it, it was just wonderful!

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      • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

        03/03/2014 at 20:52

        I’ve “marked” the place for this book on Amazon, when I finish reading the 10 or so books I already “need” to read I’ll look it up 🙂

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  9. anna amundsen

    02/03/2014 at 19:35

    This sounds very, VERY interesting. No. 514 on my ‘plan to read’ list..

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    • Ste J

      03/03/2014 at 16:05

      It’s a really quick one though so you could perhaps bump it up the list a bit…

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      • anna amundsen

        04/03/2014 at 18:09

        They are always jumping up and down the list so it surely won’t stay in it’s current place too long.

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