Thursday, 23 November 2017

In Review - 'Dog Days' by Anja Dahle Overbye.


Created by Anja Dahle Overbye.

Published in the UK by Centrala Books.

72 pages - Black and White interiors - £9.00.

The Story - This book draws inspiration from North-Western Norway where the creator grew up. 'Dog Days' is a phenomenon that takes place in the late summer. According to folklore this is a period that is especially hot, muck floats to the surface of the water, the food goes bad and dogs are more prone to go mad. It is during this period that the reader meets Anne, who is mid-way between her childhood and the dawning of adolescence. It is the stifling hot weather that affects her relationships with both her friends and her family.

Anne's best friend Marielle wants to hang out with the slightly older Carrie. When the two of them strike up a friendship Anne is left out. She is too young to make new friends at the youth club and too restless to find anything else worth doing that summer. What will happen to Anne during these Dog Days....'

The Review - I've reviewed a few of Centrala's books during the last few years and enjoyed them all. From the soaring urban beauty of 'Chernobyl - The Zone'. To the nutty artistic experimentation of 'Old Farts' What I have found out during my investigation of their titles is that they produce some weird-ass comics, weird enough to fit in nowhere that is currently going on in the UK scene. And for this fact I await the release of each of their books with high interest. And to a forty-something English man this book is one of the weirder reads.

'Erm, well, I'm going to meet Carrie tomorrow too. She's a bit older than you, so it's maybe not much fun for you if you come along? I'll call you later.'

But weird is good right? Weird can open your eyes to the plight and circumstances of people and events that had never and probably never would occur to you without the intervention of fiction and in this case black and white biographical comics. This is a book about girls in Norway. I, sadly, have never visited Norway. But I was once the same age as Anne, Marielle and Carrie. I experienced the pains of growing up and apart from what you knew or thought you knew. We have all experienced the cruelty of teenagers to each other. This is a book that explores the problems of adolescence and the anxiety and loneliness of the individual at that age. The sweeping wave of nasty jokes and taking sides and wanting just to belong echo on almost every page. One particular sequence where Anne is climbing up a hill and keeps being hit with a branch by the other girls is particularly heartbreaking. She refuses to be put off and you can see that she wants to be their friend no matter what. At certain points I found the cruel jibes hard to read as they seemingly became the first act in a horror movie where you expect a creature would arrive and exact revenge on those bullies. This of course never happens but you do feel a creepingly sickening mood affecting all those in contact with the girls. 

An awakening and realisation comes to the characters in all manner of ways. They experience the death of a neighbour, the creepy and possibly abusive advances of a sunbathing man and the chance of failure. This is a book with depth and realism. I found it affecting and disconcerting.

The art has a pencil like quality to its quirky and almost amateurish panels. This is purposeful and allows for the connection with the young and inexperienced characters portrayed in the pages. This comic won the Norweigan Comic of the Year Awards in 2016 and I can see why.

One small niggle would be the lack of flow in places to the conversation and it's translation. It loses a little of the nuance in the snark through some obvious short-cuts. In a way this adds to the other worldly quality to how the girls speak but I would have liked it to feel a little more naturalistic in places. 

It is a book I suggest that you explore if you are brave enough....

Find more out about Centrala at and on Twitter @icentrala

Many thanks for reading.

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