Blue Is the Warmest Color [Kindle Edition] by Julie Maroh, 2013.
A bittersweet tale of coming out - to oneself
This graphic novel is beautiful and sad and romantic. It is a coming out tale with artwork that is quite raw but stylish. The art contributes greatly to a sense of honesty about the characters, as though the shaky lines are a result of the characters showing us their inner selves and not quite being able to bear such searing openness.
I read this graphic novel the day after I watched the movie. I read this graphic novel purely because I had seen the movie and was so affected by it that I needed to read the source. The experience of both has merged in my head and I ask you to forgive my inability to review the graphic novel without reference to the movie. I can't help but picture Adele's bound hair and quirky smile with each frame of Clementine (Clementine's name was Adele in the movie). I am constantly comparing and contrasting each difference and similarity. They complement each other. All the things I found lacking in the movie are filled in here by the graphic novel, such that even though they are different stories, they form a complete whole in my imagination.
The most important paragraph in this entire novel filled in an emotion that I don't think was adequately explored in the film "For Emma, her sexuality is something that draws her to others, a social and political thing. For me, it's the most intimate thing there is." The movie became more about how the relationship between the two lovers changed, while the graphic novel focuses on how Clementine changes. The graphic novel is more a coming out tale, but coming out to herself only. The emotion expressed in this paragraph is truly the crux on which the entire book rests: it makes the ending (which we are informed of at the very beginning) so much harder to bear. It is bittersweet, and makes me so sad.
This conflict was stated just before the novel jumps from 1997 to 2008: I found it fascinating that it was left to us to fill in that one big gap. It was a surprising contrast with the movie, which leaves us to fill in many small gaps.
I wonder how different this graphic novel would be if there was more showing their domestic relationship. It is something that the movie managed quite well, but in doing so became a very different story. The intense sadness of the movie comes because we see them drift apart, and feel Adele's pain when she cannot repair what she has lost. She is set adrift, unable to forgive herself and move on.
In this way, both stories deal with a tragic loss. And both are quite tender in the tiny details they each give about their loved characters.
You can't review this novel without addressing the fact that it is an adult graphic novel. Both this graphic novel and the movie contain explicit sexual imagery. I feel that in each, they serve a different purpose, and the graphic novel does it with infinitely greater compassion and love. In the movie, these scenes show us that Adele has an almost insatiable appetite: for sex as much as love and food. In the graphic novel it is more about showing Clementine's acceptance of her own desire and her earnest need to connect in every way with her lover.
The graphic novel has flaws. I think the way it draws to the inevitable conclusion (which we are told at the very beginning) could have been done with more finesse. But I accepted it as much as I accepted the flawed nature of the illustrations. Many reviewers on Amazon criticise the Kindle version of the the graphic novel as having some scene transition flaws. There are two or three instances of this, but it did not spoil the experience for me.
I thoroughly recommend this story for anyone who enjoyed the emotional impact of the movie; anyone who appreciates the sadness and exhilaration that accompanies coming out - to yourself. Or anyone that loves a heartbreaking romance.
My review of this graphic novel appears on Amazon.com.au as well.
Read about Blue is the Warmest Colour on IMDB.