Graphic novel Tamara Drewe explores the lives of Beth, the manager of a writer’s retreat in the countryside; her cheating husband/acclaimed novelist, Nicholas Hardiman; Andy, the hunky groundskeeper; and Tamara Drewe, a cosmetically modified hot-piece-of-ass columnist.
Posy Simmonds (noted for her graphic novel Gemma Bovery) began drawing Tamara Drewe in 2005 as a weekly series for The Guardian. Based on Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, the installments eventually totaled 110 episodes and have now been refined and joined into one nuance-filled piece. Set in Bournemouth, England, Tamara Drewe explores the lives of Beth, the manager of a writer’s retreat in the countryside; her cheating husband/acclaimed novelist, Nicholas Hardiman; Andy, the hunky groundskeeper; and Tamara Drewe, a cosmetically modified hot-piece-of-ass columnist who just inherited her mother’s house down the street. A handful of peripheral characters add their individual blends of candor to the plot. As in any good soap opera, a bevy of secrets, affairs, and deception steams up the pages. Simmonds’ drawings are intricate and expressive, and her characters’ pointed personalities are in harmonious contrast to the elegance of their delicate, graphic build. She’s careful to mind small details, such as animals grazing (or doing the “hibbity-dibbity”), “Celebrity Watch” page-layouts similar to those found in popular magazines, stylish outfits, and buildings adorned with realistic-looking graffiti. Her use of color is subtle, featuring mostly pale, subdued hues, accentuated sparingly by bright ones. Having read my fair share of graphic novels, I unexpectedly find Simmonds’ cartoons to be the truest to human expression I’ve seen in a while. I dare say Tamara Drewe loosely reminds me of my beloved Archie comics, only more sincere, sexy, funny, bold, clever, unpredictable, and (thank God) R-rated.