Today I’m feeling quite grateful to book publicists, particularly to one who works at Abrams Comic Arts, publisher of Audrey Niffenegger’s new graphic novel, Raven Girl. In a time when libraries and publishers are sometimes on opposite sides of the fence, this is a good reminder that on both sides are people who love books and want to share them.
Audrey Niffenegger is best known for her novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, in which Clare (the wife) and Henry (the time traveler) are often separated against their will; it is an unusual and powerful love story. Her next novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, features identical twins who inherit their aunt’s London flat next to Highgate Cemetery; it is a ghost story, but the ghost realm and the human realm prove to be more porous and permeable than in other ghost stories.
Readers of these novels, however, may have missed Niffenegger’s other work; she is both an author and an artist, and these two talents come together in her graphic novels. The Night Bookmobile was serialized in The Guardian before being published in book form in 2010. The Three Incestuous Sisters (2005) and The Adventuress (2006) preceded it. And now, we have Raven Girl, in which readers of Niffenegger’s previous graphic novels will recognize her characteristic style in both the art and the story itself.
Raven Girl was conceived as “a new fairy tale,” and that is exactly what it is. A postman falls in love with a raven; their daughter is born with the form of one, but she longs for what she feels is her true form. Instead of a witch or a fairy godmother, she finds a doctor who can help her effect the change. As in a fairy tale, some details and impossibilities are glossed over; as in a fairy tale, the animal and human worlds overlap; as in a fairy tale, some characters have happy endings, and some come to unfortunate ends.
In the illustrations paired with the text, remarkable detail contrasts with simple, flowing lines, and muted browns, blues, and greens. As you read, you may find yourself looking back and forth between the text and the art, as together, they amplify the power of the story.
Like most of Niffenegger’s work, Raven Girl is magical, dark, and unusual. I highly recommend it, not just for those who are already fans of the author, but as an entry point for those who have not yet discovered her.
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. I received no compensation for this review. Raven Girl will be available May 7.