Monday, June 21, 2010

Mercury by Hope Larson

I've always been interested in Hope Larson's graphic books, which are so graceful and elegant and dreamily imaginative. Up until now, my favourites have been the earlier ones, Salamander Dream and Gray Horses.  Despite their simplicity and lightness I find them linger-worthy.  Larson's latest has a more complex, plot-driven story than her early work and is perfectly suited for tween girls who like romance, family dramas, or historical fiction but like them a little off-beat.  

Mercury  is deliciously shadowy and mystical, with a very strong sense of place. It's set in a small Nova Scotian community, French Hill,  at two different points in history.   Larson does a beautiful job of showing us the landscape of that part of the world, beginning with a gorgeous five-page  sequence showing the passing of time from the 1400s onwards, and the marks that various groups of humans have left on the land that becomes French Hill.  Her landscape includes some supernatural creatures which blend in with the forests and skies while adding an otherworldly dimension.

Larson shifts us  back and forth between the years 1859 and 2009 as we follow the separate stories of two young teens, Josey Fraser and her modern look-alike and descendant, Tara Fraser. Josey's story involves a mysterious young man, Asa, who appears at her family farm claiming to have found gold on their land.  As he becomes more involved with her and her family, Josey develops feelings for Asa.  These lead  lead her to clash with her mother, who views Asa with deep suspicion.  Tara, meanwhile, is in conflict with her mother around the fate of the family homestead, which has burned down.  Their two stories are linked not only by kinship and location but also by a secret treasure. 

I loved both the writing and the visuals in this book and felt that they complemented each other perfectly.  Larson is a true artist and a wonderful storyteller, all rolled up into one great package.  I look forward to reading more of her work. 

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