Sunday, November 14, 2010


What happens when you cross Thomas Hardy with the modern (feminist) graphic novel? If you're lucky, the result will be something sharply observed and acerbically funny like Tamara Drewe. This serial graphic novel from veteran cartoonist Posy Simmonds ran in weekly installments in The Guardian newspaper of London in 2005-2006.

Set in Hardy country (rural Dorset), it's a sly, updated riff on Far From the Madding Crowd, with a luscious heroine pursued by three obsessed men: a sexy, stoic young gardener, born on the land, the wealthy landlord next door (here transformed into a pompous crime novelist presiding over a rural writers' retreat), and a surly alt-rock star, standing in for the dashing soldier of the original.

Which doesn't mean that I'd ever heard of it before last week, when a new movie version directed by Stephen Frears was press-screened for local critics. I loved the movie, but the opening date has now been postponed to December 10, so I can't write about it just yet. But in the meantime, check out the original strip, archived in its entirety at the Guardian online. (I devoured the first 27 episodes at full-tilt!)

Better yet, wait for the film, then catch up with Simmonds' splendidly sketched and pointedly written original. What's lost (or added, or transformed) in translation is provocative indeed. Meet me back here next month for the download.

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