CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 3 . . . . September 30, 2005
A young woman, heading off to work, blows a kiss to her partner, who, seated at his work table, blows her a kiss back from the window of their second-floor apartment. It is 1983 and this charming young couple is Paul and Lucie. Paul Moves Out is the story of how they come to live in their sparsely-furnished flat above a pastry shop in Montreal.
The sequel to Paul Has a Summer Job (which, I haven’t read), Paul Moves Out continues the adventures of Paul, who is a studying advertising art and illustration at the Studio Séguin. One day, tired of the endless exercises utilizing illustrative techniques no longer even used in the trade, Paul goes to a vending machine for a drink. As the can of Coke drops to the chute of the machine, a cute young lady sends him a side-long glance and asks, “Got hit with a brick, Krazy?” (a reference to the famous Krazy Kat comics). Paul is surprised at her knowledge of both Krazy Kat and the Asterix comic series. As he trudges home through the falling snow, he remarks “Wow, she really knows her comics! . . . I didn’t even know girls read comics . . .”
But, it’s in the second year of their courses that things start to happen. Their class has a new instructor, Jean-Louis Desrosiers, young, sophisticated, and interested in stretching the limits of his students’ “artistic culture and general education.” Lucie, Paul, and two more friends, become part of Jean-Louis’ inner circle; he introduces them to his ultra-sophisticated circle of friends, taking them to art films and then arranging a trip to New York. Paul totally misses the hints as to the real reason for Jean-Louis’ interest in him - after all, Paul is crazy for Lucie, and his “first kiss” anxiety as they travel by train to the Big Apple is both charming and authentic. And, his hopes that he’d wind up alone in a room with Lucie is totally quashed when he finds out that the group is staying in a hostel run by nuns who will not allow unmarried couples to “shack up” but turn a blind eye on “two ‘friends’ of the same sex spending the night together.”
Amazingly, after Paul rejects Jean-Louis, they manage to remain friends for years after graduation, and Paul happily returns to his “little world” in Montreal. He and Lucie meet each other’s parents, move into and renovate their tiny apartment, establish careers, and “grown-up” identities. And, as is inevitable when one is an adult, they experience loss: the death of Paul’s beloved great-aunt, Janette. But life goes on, and several days after Janette’s funeral, Paul and Lucie find themselves baby-sitting Lucie’s two little nieces. It starts out being non-stop fun and soon turns into non-stop exhaustion. As they wait for Lucie’s sister and brother-in-law to come for the kids, they collapse exhausted, wondering how Monique manages: “Her days must be never-ending.” Nevertheless, in the final pages of the book, Lucie and Paul relax in their now-quiet living room, reveling in the sweet smell of Marlene’s left-behind pyjama top, a scent of “a mixture of mashed potatoes, candy, and Ivory soap.” What’s next for Paul and Lucie? Perhaps, the next sign-post on the road of adult life - parenthood.
Paul Moves Out is not a hard-bound “comic book” – it truly is a graphic novel, with characters who grow through everyday life experiences, and, of course, simple but evocative illustrations. For those who were young adults in the 1980’s, Rabagliati’s drawings include a host of details which bring back those times: a boom box belting out Boy George’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” as they paint their apartment, old-fashioned round Coca-Cola signs on the corner stores, and episodes of Dynasty playing on the black and white television. Despite the novel’s apparent simplicity, there’s considerable sophistication, both in how Paul and Lucie’s story is told (flash-backs, illustrations left uncaptioned so that the reader can “fill in the blanks”) and in what is told (references to contemporary culture, both popular and artistic). As an adult reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I’m sure that some of that enjoyment is due to nostalgia for the “good old days” (although Rabagliati is decidedly unsentimental in reminding us of the not-so-good aspects of the “old days”). However, I think that older teens, especially those who might not consider graphic novels as their typical reading material of choice, would enjoy this book. And, while Paul and Lucie move out and in together, they follow a norm for couples of their era in Quebec: they don’t get married. Some audiences might have a problem with this (and with Jean-Louis’s being gay, and with the occasional expletives in the text). However, they are such a sweet young couple - you can’t help but enjoy the story of their life together.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.