Katriona Chapman’s Follow Me In was without a doubt one of our favourite books of 2019, thanks to it’s mix of gorgeous South American travelogue and tragic broken romance that gave the book a real emotional depth. Needless to say we were thrilled when news came out that Kat would be releasing a new book via Avery Hill Publishing this year, and we are delighted to say that Breakwater is every bit as wonderful as we had hoped!
Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: Katriona Chapman
Artist: Katriona Chapman
Price: £12.99 from Avery Hill Publishing
With Breakwater, Kat has swapped the steamy jungles of South America for the salubrious south coast of England, and a cinema in Brighton. The story follows cinema worker Chris, new arrival Dan and the various characters who also work there. While this description makes it sound like a knockabout comedy, or a personal reflection like Owen Michael Johnson’s Reel Love, it is anything but. It’s a wonderful character drive melodramna, that is told in Kat’s inimitable, quiet manner, which makes Breakwater into a truly absorbing read.
While Follow Me In was often carried along by the locations, Breakwater has none of that luxury and so has to work harder for your attention. While it may feel like nothing is happening at first, this is just Kat’s quiet and deliberate method of telling a story drawing you in. It makes you really care about the characters and what is happening, so that when she drops the real emotional beats in the final third they have genuine importance so you truly care about what happens. This is not to say this is a book built around shock moments though, as Kat does not make shouty, in-your-face books. While this may mean the book lacks a certain something when read superficially, when you re-read and digest the story properly, it has a real emotional truth and realism to it that makes you identify with the protagonists and their situations in a way which you wouldn’t if the events were more over the top. To list out the sub plots here would do them a disservice, but there are some real hefty subjects in here, but they never manage to take over the story and make it an issue based book, rather they just feel like part of the natural baggage that all people carry with them in their daily life.
Visually, the book is once again sublime. Kat’s pencil hued style is told in greyscale this time, and while it may not have the bright colours and intricate details of Follow Me In, it feels much more like the greyscale simplicity of her Katzine books. The monochrome style gives it a glorious ‘picture postcard’ meets ‘kitchen sink’ view of Brighton and the cinema in which the story is set. Kat’s style is all about close panels and quiet moments of character, but she contrasts this with full page images of locations and buildings which work wonderfully as chapter breaks or moments to reflect on what has happened – or to simply take in the sheer wonder of the artwork. The Art Deco locations in the cinema and the shots of the seafront are particularly gorgeous!
While we have constantly compared Breakwater to Follow Me In throughout this review, that is perhaps an unfair comparison as this is a very different style of book. While Kat’s artistic and story telling style shine through on both, this is much more of a conventional read as Kat is able to construct the story without having to rely on autobiographical detail. Instead we get a very well considered and nuanced story, that while it may lack bombast is all the better for it. Kat’s work has this quiet and subtle beauty to it, with the artwork and story working in perfect synergy to tell absorbing and very real stories. With this she is really starting to find her voice and creating a style of book which is essential reading, whatever the subject matter.