Graphic Novel: Paul Goes Fishing by Michel Rabagliati

As a child growing up in English-Canada, I read more than a few comic books, but none past age 10. Comic books or graphic novels, "les bandes dessinées or BD," as they are known here, occupy a prominent place in pop culture in the French-speaking world. Comics are not cast aside after childhood. Nor is it unusual to hear adults make a cultural reference to classic BDs, such as Asterix, a reference often lost on English-speakers.

I was reluctant to read a graphic novel because I initially found them too pricey. There was a fair bit of buzz several years ago about Michel Rabagliati's Paul series. I tried to find copies in used book stores to no avail. People do not give them up....

I read a few of the Paul series and enjoyed them immensely, but thinking that they could not get any better, I didn't buy anymore.

I recently bought Rabagliati's latest effort, Paul à Québec, as a gift for my husband. He read it the same day, and I read it the next. Emotional tally: laughing out loud (lol) - three times; the waterworks (tears) - twice. Rabagliati expertly steers his reader through some tricky content, which never comes off as maudlin or trite. In this novel, Paul and his immediate family experience the demise of a much-loved family member.

Rabagliati's use of recognizable Quebec landmarks in his drawings gives the reader a real-time experience. However, it's the author's use of flashback and his attention to the cultural details of the day that really add to the book's realism and further draw the reader into the story.

After finishing Paul à Québec, I was curious about the English translation of the Paul series. Would English readers get the full Paul experience? I picked up Paul Goes Fishing, a title, which I admit did not interest me in the least, to see how the translation measured up.

However, once again, I was pleasantly surprised. Fishing merely serves as a backdrop for the story, and it is through this theme that we learn more about Paul, his past and his city ways. It is also through the fishing trip that we learn more about his in-laws Monique and Clément. In fact, it's the fishing trip which leads us to the main storyline, the trials and tribulations of Paul and his wife Lucie in their quest to carry a child to term.

Rabagliati draws us in with the familiar. Paul is short and thin. He is neither rich nor powerful. We learn he was a poor student, and a short-lived high school drop-out who later works in graphic design--an average guy. And that is what is so compelling about Paul and the rest of the characters. They're so little in today's mass media. It's easy to identify with the characters, and their actions and reactions are both refreshing and reassuring.

Paul's fishing trip eventually leads us back to Montreal. A flashback takes the reader with Paul through the impoverished Centre-Sud area and to the Jacques-Cartier bridge. There are also heart-wrenching trips with Lucie to the hospital, and finally Paul's stop at St. Joseph's oratory.

This book ran the gamut of emotions, and they were just as intense in English as in French. Initially, I found it odd to read Paul and Lucie in English, but after about 20 pages, I was completely drawn into the book.

If you're curious about Montreal or already know and love it, then you will be enamoured with the Paul series. I highly recommend Paul Goes Fishing in both French and English.

(If you had a chance would you read Paul Goes Fishing?)


jayward70 | May 10, 2009 at 1:21 PM

There are certain things that become addictive, for me its Granta magazine and Harpers. I read them cover to cover as soon as I get them and am always engaged both intellectually and emotionally. I have a Library card but rarely use it except for movie tapes or DVDs. i don't read Newspapers anymore preferring to get my news of the web.

I'll see if the Library has "PAUL GOES FISHING".


Post a Comment