The art in Lucille consists of sparse, mostly black and white line drawings, and the subject matter deals with anorexia, alcoholism, dysfunctional father-son relationships, and OCD. Heavy topics for a graphic novel, but that’s the beauty of the medium. It can handle anything. The book clocks in at over 500 pages and is just part one in a series. It’s unique, to say the least, but well worth the read.
The book focuses on Lucille and Arthur, who are both coming-of-age. After being sheltered by her mother and ignored by her peers, Lucille becomes hermetic and anorexic. Arthur, who has OCD, grows up with an alcoholic father who he often has to escort home from the bar. As with all awkward adolescent suffering, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the two, until they meet each other.
Ludovic Debeurme excels at capturing the intimate thoughts of these characters in their flashbacks, dreams, and internal dialogues. Lucille wants to become light and fly away, “Slender as a thread,” she says. The bare line drawings support Lucille’s aching desire to shed all excess weight and get to the core of being. Debeurme does not use the typical comic panel format. The scenes flow seamlessly on the page, which works especially well in the dream like sequences.
I didn’t feel that Lucille’s character was the most interesting in the book, because the reasoning behind her anorexia has sadly become so commonplace. Arthur’s dysfunctional family and his relationship with his father are developed much more in depth. Arthur goes from being the stereotypical dark and awkward misfit, to having to take on his father’s role within the family, including taking on his father’s name. Arthur continuously struggles to escape his father’s shadow, and Lucille becomes the only beautiful thing in his life.
The book (part one) ends with a suggestion that Lucille will develop much more in the next part. The book won several international comic prizes in its original French, and Debeurme is well respected in Europe. Lucille should bring him to the attention of U.S. readers, especially those who enjoyed Blankets by Craig Thompson and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Topshelf will publish the English translation in July, 2011.