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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

New and notable: Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir by Tom Hart

In 2011, the worst happened to author Tom Hart and his wife Leela: their nearly two year old daughter Rosalie died inexplicably. Rosalie Lightning tells the story of this devastating loss through an intertwined narrative of thoughts and recollections.

Depicting his grief on paper helped Hart to process the emotions he experienced in the wake of his daughter's death. As he explains in this interview, "...I've used comics (combined words and images) to process emotion all my life. There are lots of motivations for storytelling and art-making, but processing emotion seems to be the one that has motivated me the most."

Throughout the book, Hart frequently alludes to other artists' work (Chester Brown, Osamu Tezuka, and Hayao Miyazaki, Frank King, and many more appear in its pages.) It's clear that art helped Hart anchor himself to life even when he was suffering the worst thing imaginable.

Beyond providing an emotional outlet for Hart, his graphic novel also serves as an enduring memory and tribute to the eponymous Rosalie. As you read, you can see that Hart's overwhelming love for his daughter bleeds through the ink of every page.

Grief, loss and death are topics rarely addressed in polite company - we often use "the unspeakable" as a euphemism, so hesitant are we to speak death's name aloud - and yet loss affects everyone at some point in life. Hart's honest, unflinching portrayal of these difficult emotions is much-needed, and will surely resonate with anyone who has experienced grief. It's a heart-breaker of a book, but also beautiful.


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