‘Here’ by Richard McGuire

At work today (I work in Waterstones) I asked my boss, a specialist in graphic novels, to recommend me a few interesting titles. After approximately four seconds of thought he walked over to the shelf, eyes scanning the content, and swiftly walked back before handing me this with an air of silent satisfaction. I looked at the cover, gently swallowing a build-up of anticipatory saliva, and fell instantly in love.

‘Here’ is a graphic novel that centres solely on one space across thousands of years, the centre point being a family lounge. Written by Richard McGuire whose work is often featured in the likes of The New York Times and Le Monde, the work took fifteen years in the making, and you can really feel that across the roaming, multilayered 309 pages.

The novel has no defined plot, the eye scans the page looking for a structure but none is offered. Instead dates and times merge together, one family’s choice of orange decor collides with a native American couple making love in the corner. In one of the earlier pages we are transported to 1959, yet in the bottom right corner the eye catches a cat prowling across in 1999. We are well and truly situated ‘here’, allowed to see the different layers of personal and historical meaning applied to a particular space, the amorphous nature of meaning.

The beauty of its simplicity is it gets us to think about our own ‘here’ – to think about what has happened in the very spot in which we find ourselves, how familiar it seems. And if it is familiar – what is it that makes it familiar? How do we interact with those who came here before? It reminds us of the ecology of a space, of the habitat it once was and the habitat it has become, the Native Americans and the colonists and the families posing for a picture in the 50s and the dominant four walls throughout help remind us that on top of the everydayness of a place there is always a political and historical rubbing shoulders with the known. It is personal and beautiful and for the reader, who sits and purveys all that is ‘here’. it is an engrossing, sometimes humorous and always thoughtful read.

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