Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters; two books by Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, has also published a couple of unusual books that are a cross between graphic novels, picture books (for adults) and art books. Niffenegger herself calls The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters "visual novels," while the publisher has added stickers to the covers identifying them as "novels in pictures." They consist of a series of aquatint etchings with a very small amount of text on the facing pages. The illustrations pretty much carry the narrative on their own, with the text supplying names for the protagonists and such.

The Adventuress is about an unlucky young woman who is rather blown about by the winds of fate: created by her alchemist father, stolen away by an evil baron and then forced to marry. But she has spunk and surprising inner resources, so this is only the beginning of her adventures. The story is surreal, the images engaging and the total effect is magical.

The Three Incestuous Sisters is more of a melodrama: two sisters in love with the same man, a number of tragic deaths and then a happy ending. One sister can levitate and mentally commune with her unborn nephew (who will be born with wings), so expect some dream-like sequences here too. The aquatints are truly fabulous. This kind of printmaking takes a lot of time; Niffenegger spent 14 years creating this book. It only takes a short time to read, but the images can be enjoyed over and over. See more of her work at her website.

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