Thursday, 25 November 2010

Review; The Most Natural Thing in the World


I have a great idea I call Small Press Amnesty. If, like me, you attend small press events and know many of the creators, you might find yourself in the strange position where you feel unable to buy a copy of the comic that you’ve decided that you want to buy. Before, when the comic was new, you didn’t buy it for whatever reason, but now that it’s been out for a while, you find yourself in a stuck state where buying a copy gives away to the creator that you didn’t earlier. You find yourself in the ridiculous position of trying to give the impression of already owning a copy by getting over excited about work they’ve released since or about to publish. Or is it just me? My idea enables you to approach the creator, say the words “I’m invoking Small Press Amnesty” and buy a copy of whatever it is you’re being stupid about without any hard feelings.

This is exactly what happened with Francesca Cassavetti’s The Most Natural Thing in the World. The book collects together a series of comic strips that map the journey of a couple deciding to have a baby to living with that child after she is eventually born. Each strip runs from a single page to a handful but they all fit together into a cohesive and compelling narrative. Even the book’s extra, Shadow of the Curriculum, a story about a mum trying to persuade her son to do his homework, fits in suitably at the end as, at least, an observation that parenthood doesn’t finish once the initial intensity eases.

I can’t say for certain how autobiographical the anecdotes Francesca tells in the book are but every one of them feels absolutely truthful. Her drawing style is loose and expressive which helps make the stories and characters relatable but she cleverly maintains certain ambiguities. For example, I don’t remember the character names being clarified, which is an ingenious way of broadening their accessibility. It means that I, a man who has no children (well none that I know of. Eh? Eh? No what I mean?), totally connects to the characters and their predicament from the very first panel.

Most importantly, The Most Natural Thing in the World is laugh-out-loud funny. Francesca compares her pregnant and naked self unfavourably to the classic pregnant and naked Demi Moore photograph on the front of Vanity Fair; She draws herself experiencing morning sickness just as her husband is vomiting at the realisation that he is to be a father; When eventually the baby gets to sleep, mum worries that she’s too quiet and wakes her up just to make sure that everything is okay. Francesca doesn’t avoid the physical and emotional difficulties that come with having children but she deals with the subject matter with honesty and good humour. It’s a book that says to aspiring or new parents, to every human being, “everything you’re going through is perfectly normal. It’ll all work out fine in the end.”

Stats! The Most Natural Thing in the World costs £8 and is worth every penny. Don’t be a big idiot like I was. Contact Francesca via her
website and tell her I sent you.

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