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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Essex County

Title: Essex County: Collected
Series: Essex County
Genre: Graphic Novel, CanLit

Illustrator: Jeff Lemire
Collection Courtney Read Published: 2011
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
ISBN: 9781603091190
Source: Scribd

The Story

Essex CountyFrom the Scribd page:

Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What turns two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the simple-hearted care of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception? Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire pays tribute to his roots with Essex County, an award-winning trilogy of graphic novels set in an imaginary version of his hometown, the eccentric farming community of Essex County, Ontario, Canada. In Essex County, Lemire crafts an intimate study of one community through the years, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a young artist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free. This new edition collects the complete, critically-acclaimed trilogy (Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories, and The Country Nurse) in one deluxe volume! Also included are over 40-pages of previously unpublished material, including two new stories.

The Response

I had heard some wonderful things about Lemire’s Essex County from Reddit. Someone claimed it was one of the greatest graphic novels published in the last few years. And any reason to broaden my Canadian graphic novel horizons is a good one for me.

This collection contains 3 longer stories and a couple shorts. Each takes place in Essex County in Ontario (right outside of Windsor and across the river from Detroit, for those who aren’t as familiar with Ontarian geography) and while it isn’t apparent until about more than halfway through the second story, each tie together telling the stories of 3 closely connected individuals.

Each story has some common themes – surviving hardship in a small town where each character comes across some sort of loss (death of mother, estranged brother, burning down of work/home building), and each story tells of the silent strength each character has to get through what their facing. The characters are all well developed, and have the kind of depth that you wouldn’t expect in stories of this length.

It took me a while to really get used to and appreciate Lemire’s illustration style – at first the drawings seemed unrefined and very rough, but by the end I recognized how much emotion and atmosphere is conveyed just through the illustrations. It seemed to me, surprisingly, that the panels without text actually communicated so much more relating to the stories and the setting than any other panels in the novel. It was absolutely beautiful.

I did find that at times this does drag a little bit, but once I was invested I couldn’t put this book down.

The Bottom Line

Definitely a great homage to the county the author grew up in. Highly recommended – especially if you are in to farming or hockey.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:20 am August 11, 2015.
Category: Fiction and Literature
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