Saturday 26 January 2019

Kingdom by Jon McNaught 
Heading away for a family holiday is a recipe for both anticipation and disappointment. In Jon McNaught’s Kingdom, Suzie, Andy and Mum are driving to the summer holiday caravan park on the English coast. Mum’s excited - she remembers it from her own childhood and has fond memories of it being the best place ever. Filled with memories of discovering mermaids’ caves, giant sand dunes and crashing waves, she can’t wait to share it with her children. In this graphic novel, we start en route, GPS on, traffic jams and boredom. With Suzie’s keen eye, we are given the view from the back seat. Each frame is a blink of the eye, like viewing the world through the shutter of an old-fashioned Viewfinder. It’s eerily reminiscent of your own memories of long-distance car trips, - an ever changing view as you move  towards your destination, but where, because you are sitting still and not moving actively through the landscape, you slow down in your observations. McNaught gives us half-views of signs, the backs of vehicles, trucks with advertising, birds whirling overhead, sounds that infiltrate the capsule of the car, the inane conversation and the games, both verbal and visual, that attempt to speed up the journey. On the way, there’s the traditional stop for junk food and the anticipation of arriving, but the slightly uncomfortable sense of being nowhere - in limbo - where you are strangely anonymous and self-contained but a unit outside of itself and its familiar stomping ground. And finally, you arrive, all the necessary unpacking is done, yet you are not quite there yet - your emotional self is still somewhere in the ‘old world’, trying to find the internet reception above one bar. As Suzie heads off for walks to the caves with her mother, Andy fools around on his laptop until he is bored and wanders through the caravan park and up the hill. And here the story starts to hum - being alone has its upside: no tales of yesteryear, no-one telling you what to do. Yet there’s also the tedium of rain, of the rundown museum (which has its own charm, but maybe not to two bored children more accustomed to digital overload), of a parent reminding you about school, and a kid sister who is always tagging along. When Suzie and Mum go to visit Aunt Lizzie, Andy refuses to go along, preferring to be left alone. This is a story of discovery, of starting to see and sense how a place makes one behave differently. In this very subtly illustrated graphic novel, McNaught captures the mundane and the exceptional without any change in palette, tone or texture - images of the landscape, of the natural world and the strangely prescribed human world - the manicured caravan park and the images on the digital devices that are ever present - are juxtaposed playfully. The sense of doing something, but also very little - that ‘holiday feeling’ - creates a meditative quality and as a reader you too slow down, sharpen your senses (re-read and look more closely) and engage in the quiet, yet profound moments that make us look at the world, ourselves and our place in that world anew - experiences that change us incrementally. 

No comments:

Post a Comment