cover image Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe

Posy Simmonds, . . Mariner, $16.95 (136pp) ISBN 978-0-547-15412-1

This irresistible graphic novel by longtime Guardian cartoonist Simmonds is roughly based on Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd and uses it to depict the English upper-middle class having tawdry midlife crises. Beth, the wife of renowned author Nicholas Hardiman, runs an idyllic writer's retreat where she's parlayed her skill at caring for her husband into caring for other writers. She and her literary charges barely notice the locals who, jammed on council estates, look on with envy. Enter young Tamara Drewe, a newspaper columnist famed for her post–plastic surgery beauty. With Ben, her rock-star boyfriend, and her citified ways, she knocks Beth's little group on its head and gets stalked by two local girls. After Ben leaves Tamara, she decides the already adulterous Nicholas would be a nice lay on the rebound, only he falls in love with her. The art captures British frumpiness so well it's scary; middle-age spread hulks through this book like sad weight, but it's less skilled with beauty; Tamara's looks don't sway the reader the way they sway the characters in the book. But the view on how feminism has failed in moneyed Britain is priceless. A wonderful and slightly evil book. (Oct.)