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Un Homme et Une Femme et Une Autre Femme

In Pénélope Bagieu's graphic novel, a young woman stumbles onto a secret that could turn the literary world upside down.

Un Homme et Une Femme et Une Autre Femme

BOOK REPORT for Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Alexis Siegel

Cover Story: Turn Around, Bright Eyes
BFF Charm: Stuart Smalley
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Easy Breezy
Arty Art: Ooh La La
Bonus Factor: Authors
Relationship Status: Summer Lovin'

Cover Story: Turn Around, Bright Eyes

As striking an image as this might be, it leans into the quirky, twee angle more than the actual story does. A wide-eyed reader, a jovial tea drinker, and a sly femme fatale aren't exactly the roles of these characters, and the actual artwork doesn't use as much bright, contrasting colours nor a colour scheme très français. 

However, my favourite part of the cover is actually the back, which does make sense for shut-in Thomas. 

The Deal:

Zoe works a crappy job as a product rep at trade shows, and she goes home every night to a crappy boyfriend. To say she's in dire need of a change is an understatement. Enter world-renowned author, Thomas Rocher -- or, rather, enter Zoe into Thomas' life. As this new friendship cures Thomas of writer's block, it also brings Zoe closer to uncovering a huge literary scandal.

BFF Charm: Stuart Smalley

Stuck at a dead-end job with a deadbeat boyfriend, Zoe's def. going through a phase of, "Shizz, my life isn't turning out how I thought it'd be". And once she starts hanging out with Thomas, she becomes self-conscious about not being as smart or well-read as his usual literary crowd is. But Zoe: you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you! It's never too late to make changes to your life -- and girl, you're only 22! Although who hasn't had their moments of being young and overly dramatic? (Ahem.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Since Zoe's boyfriend is such a jerkface, almost anybody would be an upgrade -- and, for the most part, Thomas is. Fortunately, Zoe ends up with someone who appreciates her for who she is. 

Talky Talk: Easy Breezy

Against the backdrop of a brisk plot, Bagieu via Siegel has crafted distinct voices for her main characters. But given the macabre tagline and title (which isn't actually a macabre reference at all), I was sort of waiting for the paranormal shoe to drop. Whether it does or not, I'll leave that for you to discover. 

Arty Art: Ooh La La

Bagieu depicts human features almost exclusively in black and white, and with occasional exaggeration like Zoe's large eyes. Colour is employed carefully and deliberately: the drab despair of Zoe's life with her boyfriend; the muted monochromacy of flashbacks to the start of Thomas' career; and, of course, the vivid vibrancy of Zoe's signature red coat. 

And because these are all grownup characters and grownup relationships, there's also a little bit of nuddy pants. Or, more accurately, nuddy shirts. But nothing worse than what half the population sees when they look at their nekkid selves (i.e., BEWBS). 

Bonus Factor: Authors

Yes, working in publishing can be quite a pop culture cliché. But even without my proximity to the industry, I think I'd still be fascinated by the behind-the-scenes action. The focus here is mostly on Thomas' writing process, and how he's reacted to the adoration and criticism that comes with fame. 

Casting Call:

I was so tempted to cast Krysten Ritter as Zoe, and Jesse and Céline circa Before Sunset as Thomas and Agathe. But I'll go with this group instead, even if my Zoe's a little too old and my Thomas and Agathe a little too young.

Emma Stone as Zoe

Fran Kranz as Thomas

Natalie Dormer as Agathe, Thomas' editor

Relationship Status: Summer Lovin'

My time with this charming graphic novel just flew by; it was over before I knew it. We might not be together 4EVA, but I only have good memories of our brief courtship -- a fondness that grows when I revisit the story, knowing how everything turns out. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from First Second. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Exquisite Corpse is available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.