Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I am quite probably the last person on the planet to have read this book. And despite all the rave reviews (are there any detractors at all?), I was planning to hold out even longer (forever?) until I decided to use this graphic novel as my book to challenge my preconceptions about a genre for the Take Another Chance Challenge. Because you see, I am not a fan of the graphic novel. Somehow, the whole comic panel thing detracts from the story for me. But I thought this universally praised graphic novel might be the one that made me understand what all the hoopla is about over these books. Sadly, that was not to be.

Telling of Satrapi's childhood in Iran, this is a simple but direct tale about the overthrow of the Shah and the beginning of the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi grew up learning that no one was safe, not family, not friends, no one. They could and did just disappear. And yet both her family and she as a young girl stayed politicized, quietly (and sometimes, in the manner of children, not so quietly) questioning the official line. The graphics are blocky and starkly black and white, reflecting the simplicity of a child's memories and also the growing horror of life under the regime.

While this sounds promising, I was unable to get myself past the prejudice I was trying to challenge. I simply don't love graphic novels. Having to stop and examine the art broke the flow of the narrative for me. I would have prefered more detail in words than the simplistic comic panels offered. While I do recognize that condensing a powerful tale into a book as minimal as this takes skill, I'm much happier with my wordier, less illustrated texts. I do have the second book sitting here and because I am this way, I am certain I will be reading it as well but unless something finally clicks for me, that will likely be my last graphic novel.


  1. Oh no! Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy your first graphic novel experience.

    I did enjoy Persepolis, but didn't love it. I felt it was a bit dry and overly factual. I could never really connect with the characters as I didn't have the rich detail of a book.

    I think you need to try a different kind of graphic novel. Perhaps one that is a bit more entertaining? I'm not an expert, as I haven't read enough. Hopefully someone will come up with some suggestions for you.

  2. I never read graphic novel. I look up for Twilight before and like you, I think I don't have deep feeling for it. But I like to read manga. It's better than graphic I guess.

  3. I'm still glad you tried it. There's a graphic version of P&P that's partly out (coming out in parts). Could that be the one that pushes you over the edge? :)

  4. I've never crossed that line either but I may have to for Diana Gabaldon's upcoming one... Or maybe not, Jamie as a cartoon is a scary thought :)

  5. Maybe you have to see Asterix and Tintin as a kid to develop the brain for graphic novels. It could be like a foreign language -- if you don't hear it while young, you'll never be completely fluent.

    I'm about to try Emma, which will be my first manga style novel. Wish me luck!

  6. I'm not a big fan of the graphic novel either. Like you I don't like the break in the flow of text as you stop to examine pictures to try an pick up nuances.

  7. I haven't read many graphic novels, but this one has been on my list for quite some time. Sorry it didn't work for you.

  8. Have you seen the film? It is quite wonderful.


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