Book Review: A Taste of Chlorine by Bastien Vives

Title: A Taste of Chlorine
Author: Bastien Vives
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
Genre: Graphic Novel
ISBN: 978-0224090964
Pages: 144
Price: £16.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A man with curvature of the spine is advised to take up swimming to help with his condition. When he begins swimming he finds it hard to get into but slowly becomes better at it. A woman he meets at the swimming pool is a former swimming champion who helps him get better and the two begin a pool-only relationship. Over time it seems the man falls for the woman and that the woman might have feelings for the man – but will anything come of this? This is the premise of this graphic novel, and honestly it is beautifully portrayed.

This subtle, gentle story is told at a very leisurely pace by artist/writer Bastien Vives. The pictures look very colourful and crisp in the French style of illustration. This is a contemplative, almost zen-like storytelling style revolving around swimming in a pool with very little in the way of dialogue and mostly panels showing slight variations of the previous one. In this way it’s almost like animation and if you read it quickly it’s like watching an animated indie feature. I personally loved this method of story-telling. It is almost taking you back to the roots of telling stories without being too verbose and all through pictures.

In the end, I wasn’t sure what to make of the story. I enjoyed the book but the ambiguity made sure that I was kept in the dark. The end is like the end of “Lost in Translation” when Scarlett Johannson whispers something in Bill Murray’s ear and the audience doesn’t hear it – something is “said” which basically ends the book and it’s never explained.

Even so, the book is well drawn and intriguing if only to see how the story will play out. The ambiguity and lack of an ending continue the feeling of intrigue set out by the writer and though that might be unsatisfactory for some, I still came away from the book thinking it was worthwhile. Definitely an acquired taste but for those looking for indie comics or a comic book that has something a bit different to it, this is a decent read.

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