cover image Ballad for Sophie

Ballad for Sophie

Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, trans. from the Portuguese by Gabriela Soares. Top Shelf, $24.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60309-498-6

A moving saga of artistic rivalry, guilt, and redemption, this elegantly drawn graphic novel frames a famous pianist’s life story as a narrative reluctantly spilled to Adeline, an intern from French newspaper Le Monde. Growing up in 1930s France, Julien Dubois is a musical prodigy with a hard-driving single mother. But his talent can’t compare to that of François Samson, a poor janitor’s son, who physically levitates in his transcendent performances. Julien fixates on François, but François is more interested in protesting the occupying Nazis. Julien’s mother, on the other hand, is literally in bed with the invaders. Julien struggles to escape his mother and his old music teacher, Hubert Triton, drawn as a devilish goat who transforms Julien into a cheesy pop sensation renamed Eric Bonjour. After a lifetime of mental and moral torment, Julien tries to make amends and revive François’s name after his brooding rival’s quiet death. The final section reveals that Adeline has been concealing her own true identity, leading to a touching conclusion. Cavia gives each section its own muted, retro color palette and depicts his characters with fine, expressive angular lines. The result is a sweeping, enjoyably soapy story of frailty and reconciliation. (Sept.)