This was one of those occasions where someone puts a book into your hands that they think you will like. In my daily comings and goings, I don’t make much of a secret about how much I like graphic novels, comics and sequential art and what have you. White Rapids is in that ballpark, whilst being wholly and utterly unlike any such thing you’ve seen before.
Imagine a very nice collection of 30s-50s art on the kind of paper that you find yourself frequently brought up short by (the kind of paper that you idly run between your finger and thumb as you ‘read’). Then further pin a wistful narrative that manages to recreate the workaday world of work long forgotten (a la Mad Men) against a backdrop of a sadly changing world with little or no sentiment for what has gone before.
This is the story of White Rapids, a town ‘named after the white rapids running through a northern stretch of the St Maurice River’, established by the Shawinigan Water & Power Company (in an opening scene reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ under-rated Hudsucker Proxy) to house their employees. The main thrust of the book details life in the town: feet glimpsed by shop counters with Kellogs & minute rice adverts, the purchasing of modern gadgets, summers spent lounging on decking, evenings spent enjoying cocktails with friends, watching Singing in the Rain, seasons and holidays coming and going, time passing, a town bedding down. And yet, the long shadow cast over a town established in the sake of commerce eventually reasserts itself and a way of life vanishes in the blinking of an eye…
All told, this is a lovely piece of work, thoughtful, precise, beautiful to look at, with much to snag and occupy the mind of even the most casual reader. This is very definitely a book for grown ups (particularly readers of graphic novels for whom quite possibly half a life has passed). You can read the book in a little under an hour but quite possibly you find that you then return to the book and read it again and again, in order to see what you missed and in order to see if there is anything of the life that was capable of being transported into the life that is.
Any Cop?: This is one of those below-the-radar treasures that you should search out at your earliest convenience. Two gold stars for Pascal Blanchet.