Days of the Bagnold Summer – Joff Winterhart

Bagnold SummerNo graphic novel reviews for nearly a year, then two come along at once!  I picked this up from my library at the same time as Dotter of her Father’s Eyes.  It was also part of the Costa Book Award promotion having been shortlisted in the novel category.  It lost out, as did Dotter in the overall award, to the unstoppable juggernaut that is Hilary Mantel and her book Bring up the Bodies.  Like Dotter, this book was a winner just for being nominated.  The book is a heartwarming, sometimes cringe-worthy but often smile-inducing set of scenes primarily between a teenager and his mother as they negotiate the seemingly endless weeks of the summer holidays.

Daniel Bagnold, 15 is supposed to be spending the summer with his father who lives in Florida with his new wife and baby, but plans change last minute leaving Daniel at home with his mum, Sue.  It’s a sad start but Daniel is glad he won’t have to miss six weeks of Kerrang! magazine after all.  “Don’t worry, son” says Sue to Daniel “We’ll have fun” and gives him a thumbs up – somehow you doubt it!  But what follows is a beautifully observed depiction of a mother/son relationship during those strange teenage years where neither feels understood by the other and so much is left unsaid.

Image from Joff Winterhart/Jonathan Cape
Image from Joff Winterhart/Jonathan Cape

Each facing page of six drawings is a vignette of their lives together during this six week period.  Some involve Sue thinking about her past life and whether her choices have been the right ones and how she feels about Daniel now and when he was younger.  There are some really poignant episodes which bring them together, but they generally negotiate the time together without much of consequence happening, but also without really sharing a great deal.  The relationship between Sue and Daniel is completely authentic considering there is little space and opportunity in six pictures to develop it.  But somehow Joff Winterhart has managed it.  He draws in other characters, such as Daniel’s friend Ky and his mum Astrid and again with little space and dialogue you instantly understand the relationships and set-up.

The drawings in Bagnold could be described as cruder than in Dotter, but no less effective; unfussy pencil drawings with little other detail in each frame other than the characters themselves, with the text in classic comic book speech bubbles or banners at the top/bottom of the frame.  Winterhart has sensitively captured the essence of this instantly forgettable pair (in his own words on the opening page), to make this a touching tale of mother/son love.  Well worth a read if you happen upon it.  My local library has lots of shiny new copies!

Check here to see several of the pages from Days of the Bagnold Summer.

Sorry I’ve been absent for over a week – not been well, but back up and writing now!

One thought on “Days of the Bagnold Summer – Joff Winterhart”

  1. According to the High/Middle/Lowbrow chart this should be somewhere near the bottom. In fact, a graphic novel like this is probably more highbrow than anything else. Just goes to show how much has changed in fifty years.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s