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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Graphic novels - do they work?

I’ve long been intrigued by graphic novels (basically novels told in a comic strip format – although not necessarily funny…). Do they work or are they just for lazy readers? Persepolis is the autobiographical story of Marjane Satrapi growing up in Iran during the revolution. There’s definitely nothing funny about Satrapi’s claustrophobic, repressed and violent childhood – neighbours telling on each other, the secret police monitoring every move and Iraqi bombs dropping over Teheran.

Persepolis is a sad tale of families (including the author’s own) being torn apart. Of people ‘disappearing’ never to be seen again or returning from long prison sentences and horrific torture. The story is seen through the eyes of a child which works particularly well with the graphic novel format. Satrapi’s observations are unfiltered, honest and raw. A bright, opinionated young girl, her vocal opposition to headscarves and sensorship gets her into trouble. Even with very limited descriptive writing there’s a sinister, threatening atmosphere. A graphic novel is nothing without good illustrations, Satrapi’s (who trained as an illustrator) simple black and white drawings compliments the story perfectly. I was surprised how much I liked Persepolis and the graphic novel format, it’s a nice change from the classic novel and a quick, easy read. This one, in particular, is highly recommended.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is published by Jonathan Cape, 153 pages.

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