Polina by Bastien Vivès

Challenge 37: “A graphic novel.”


★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

It’s probably best to start off by saying that I’ve never been a comic person. Because of this, I’ve never tried a graphic novel, making Polina my first. I know many of my favourite novels have been translated (if that’s the correct term) but I’m always amazed at how a 300ish page thriller can become half the size in graphic form. Is half the book really sensual description? And if so, is it really not necessarily to create such enjoyment from the tale?

It seemed not, as I felt as if there was no substantial plot – it was clear to see there was an underlying idea, but the pace meant that some of the intense scenes and suspense was just lost, in a way I couldn’t see it being in written form. Don’t get me wrong, there was atmosphere and characterisation, but it moved too fast to carry much action. The strength (and sometimes nature) of relationships between the characters was more difficult to portray, and I felt a little uncertain as to them for a couple of the characters. From the blurb I knew Polina’s instructor had a commanding or influential role that influenced her choices, but I found this wasn’t conveyed in the actual book. Nevertheless the book was satisfactory in a way, granting the use of more imagination in providing the backlines and was an enjoyable little tale.

Another difficulty I had with the novel, however, was the time jumps. From image to image it sometimes wasn’t easy to decipher what time period had passed. As the novel progressed there became definite pages that informed the reader of certain jumps, but at other times (particularly near the start) it was left unsignposted. This made it easy to get confused as to quite what was occurring, particularly when visual changes to the character were minimal or non-existent.

At the heart of it, the book provided a good story with some well-crafted atmosphere and a swift pace, however at times the plot was rather superficial and confusion could arise over time jumps. Due to my inexperience of reading graphic novels, however, it’s difficult to ascertain whether these issues arise from the core ideals behind a graphic novel, and hence would be recurring problems for me with this genre. Polina is an enjoyable tale, and most certainly relatable for anyone who has persevered through difficult patches in a hobby.

Recommended for fans of:

  • Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Ways to Live Forever by Sally Gardner

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