Swimming in a lake, friendship, love, and discovering the world of “grown-ups”
by Serena Di Virgilio and Nicola D’Agostino
It’s a summer of transition for Rose, marking the beginning of her adolescence. While she still enjoys playing with Windy, her younger long- time holiday friend, there are also horror movies, a crush and most of all a growing interest in the vicissitudes of adults.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, published in the USA by First Second Books and translated into italian by Bao Publishing as “E la chiamano Estate”, is a fascinating graphic novel full of moods and emotions, supported by a remarkable mastery of art and comics storytelling.
The protagonist is a girl who is becoming aware of sexuality. Her underdeveloped breast, the glares at a young shop clerk, the books at home about procreation, the unwanted pregnancy of the girl going out with the guy she likes: sex is everywhere. It permeates adults’ life. It fascinates and confounds Rose, making her feel left out, sometimes in a very painful way, like with her mother’s incomprehensible but palpable pain.
But this is still a vacation, and it’s time to swim in the lake, chat by the fire on the beach, have long walks in the woods and go on an unavoidable trip to the local tourist attraction.
The stories of This One Summer emerge from what Rose lives, observes and listens to, sometimes in secret. Her memories of previous summer vacations, and specifically of some moments spent with her mother, help flesh out the characters and heighten the nostalgic mood.
Jillian Tamaki’s brushwork deserves a special mention, both for its simple and unadulterated beauty in the representation of nature and the human body in its dynamism and variety of forms, and also for its effectiveness in communicating details functional to narration through face expressions, body poses and viewing angles.
Her style is personal and fascinating, echoing elements of classical chinese painting and the lexicon of manga and american newspaper strips such as Schulz’s Peanuts.
As the book ends the character have just begun to evolve so there’s not really a resolution to the various threads. The protagonist herself seems to have absorbed all the events without really digesting them, and even the most dramatic moment seems to pass without a real change of direction. It’s a choice that can leave the reader somewhat unsatisfied, but which serves well the story and its tone. It surely promotes thought after the book is closed, and one or many re-reads.