Waves by Ingrid Chabbert & Carole Maurel, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin
Published by Archaia, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Waves is a graphic novel inspired by the author’s own experiences. We follow two women whose journey to have a child ends in tragedy, and the difficulties they face when trying to navigate their shared grief. As such, there are obvious trigger warnings here for infant death and bereavement.
The upsetting subject matter is handled with due sensitivity, with Maurel’s often dreamlike artwork well suited to the poignant tone of the narrative. Her use of colour is particularly effective, functioning as a visual representation of the book’s main themes. When we first join our characters, their excitement fills the world with vibrant colour. The moment they lose their child, this drains away entirely, leaving everything around them monochrome. As they make sense of their loss, connect with fellow bereaved parents, and begin to look towards the future, accents of colour begin to seep into the world once again; the spark of hope reignited. This simple but powerful creative choice perfectly encapsulates the characters’ devastation, and reflects the notion of finding ways to move forward through the numbness of pain.
With such emotionally charged content, the dialogue did dip into the overly saccharine for me at times, and there was an exchange with a doctor that I found jarringly implausible (I can only hope it was creative licence, and not something Chabbert actually experienced herself). Other than this, I thought the story was given both the reverence and the prevailing optimism it required.
I also very much enjoyed how normalised the queer representation was. This isn’t a story about two women trying to have a child; it’s a story about the pain that any loving couple losing a child would experience. The fact they are both women is purely incidental. There is absolutely a place for stories that put the specific impact of LGBT+ issues at the forefront, but it’s also vital that stories like this exist to highlight the underlying humanity that connects us all; the universal feelings of love and longing that transcend superficial differences.
You can pick up a copy of Waves from Book Depository by clicking here.