________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008

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Paul Goes Fishing.

Michel Rabagliati. Translated by Helge Dascher.
Montreal, PQ: Drawn & Quarterly (Distributed by Raincoast Books), 2008.
187 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-897299-28-9.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

At the conclusion of Paul Moves Out, Paul and Lucie are lost in a reverie: despite total exhaustion from several days spent baby-sitting their two young nieces, the experience has been life-changing. Rabagliatti hints that parenthood may be Paul and Lucie’s next life-adventure, and as the book opens, Paul and Lucie and their friends, France and Peter, are both expecting their first babies. Life is good (although for France and Peter, who is incredibly successful in business, life is even better, of course). And as the story opens, life is about to get even better for everyone because in mid-July, most of the province of Quebec goes on holiday and so are Paul and Lucie. This year’s holiday will be spent in a log cabin at a fishing camp, with a pristine lake, on which Lucie’s brother-in-law, Clement, will be spending every waking second. Lucie’s sister, Monique, and the two nieces, Judith and Mylene, will also be there, and it looks as if a relaxing vacation awaits everyone.

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      As the title indicates, Paul goes fishing, and from Clement and the other veteran anglers, he learns plenty about the art and technique of fishing. Standing at the dock on the lake, Paul thinks back to a prior fishing trip with his dad, one in which their motor sank and only the superhuman effort exerted by Paul’s dad got them safely back to shore. However, soon enough Paul finds himself out on the lake with Clement, but despite instruction from a master angler, Paul lands nothing. And then, the inevitable – a rainy day. The usual amusements of the cabin-bound are brought out: board games, cards, old magazines, music, a visit to local sites, but sooner or later, everyone is more than a bit edgy. The rainy days also lead to another of Paul’s flashbacks to his past; we learn about his being bullied in middle school, and his difficulties as a student in senior school. More family history unfolds as Monique and Paul walk through the woods, and she tells the story of her attachment to one of the neglected children she helps in her job as a family service worker. Her heartbreak at being unable to take in one of her clients as a foster child is soon followed by Paul and Lucie’s heartbreak at the miscarriage of their child.

      Now, I’m not going to tell any more of the story, because the book continues with nearly two more years in the life of Lucie and Paul. But, at the end, we finally understand the first page of the story in which the custodian at the Offertory of St. Joseph empties the public offerings box and takes it to the priest in charge. In the last frame, the priest holds a cash register receipt, plainly mystified by its presence amongst the bills and coins of the offerings.

      Like Paul Moves Out, Paul Goes Fishing is a sophisticated graphic novel for older teens. Paul and Lucie’s story is that of any young couple, and Rabagliatti celebrates the quiet charm of everyday life. He is equally frank about the disappointments life brings to all of us: Paul’s father and sister both experience job loss through corporate re-structuring, and although dependent upon computer technology in his work, Paul rails at the cost of modern technology:

Between 1987 and 1995, I handed over more than $40 000 to Apple & Co. for equipment that was practically obsolete before I’d even unpacked it. And what for? To wind up glued to the screen, straining my eyes, slumped over and slack-jawed for the rest of my professional life. They get on your nerves, eat up your savings, call the shots and deprive you of human contact, and they took over in no time. Nothing will ever be the same again, because everything, almost everything depends on a goddam computer.

We really got screwed.

 

      Rabagliatti is not delicate, either, when Lucie has her miscarriage; we get graphic details, and as tempers fray over the stresses in their life, language mirrors Paul and Lucie’s unhappiness and frustrations. However, all of this adds to the book’s sincerity and realism. Paul Goes Fishing is a graphic novel for people who don’t think that they’d like graphic novels, and if you like this one, you’ll want to buy the other two books preceding this one.

Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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