By Mary and Bryan Talbot
Published by Jonathan Cape
Set against the backdrop of the disastrous 2015 floods in northern England, it seems more than timely to re-read Rain this weekend, after the recent floods that have impacted on so many in Yorkshire. Sadly, for me and many others, those floods emphasise all the more how urgently we need to tackle issues surrounding contributing factors such as climate change – especially when some, such as land use (or as Rain highlights, mis-use), can be mitigated.
On the surface, Rain chronicles the relationship between two young women – Mitch, an environmental activist, and Cathy, a London-based researcher waking to those environmental issues. Together, they face the issues surrounding a long distance and sometimes tempestuous romance as their world views clash, but grow closer as the problems of criminally mismanaged wild moorland, where wildlife is being slaughtered in favour of grouse, come to a distressing head, as torrential rain swamps their adopted town.
Elsewhere, Cathy realises crops are being poisoned, and, as readers, it becomes rapidly clear that Rain is not just about our relationships with each other – be they lover, family or friend. It’s about our relationship with our environment, our planet, and life around us.
Some reviewers of Rain have criticised its take on the climate crisis, suggesting it is on occasion too opinionated, and some dialogue unnecessarily “preachy”. Right now, when we’re seeing, again, the effects of climate change (and other factors, as noted in the story) in the form of disastrous floods, I’d argue we need graphic novels like this, and more, to highlight as much as possible the mess we’re finding ourselves in.
That the graphic novel is set in 2015 and little seems to have changed, some scenes foreshadowing current or recent political events, is simply an added spur for us to act.
It’s no easy task to deliver such a powerful graphic novel, outlining at the same time some of the environmental issues which face our planet – issues which the authors note were first raised over two hundred years ago.
This is a cleverly written and gloriously visualised story, echoing the sense of anger and frustration many feel as the world faces further climate change peril – not just flooding, but out of control fires, happening right now in Australia and, of course, threatening the Amazon.
On first reading, I have to confess that I was puzzled on the art choices. It was only while I was lucky enough to have a chat with Mary Talbot at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, that it became clear that all the urban scenes in this book are grey, with small panels, only occasionally with a dash of colour when the characters engage in protest; while rural scenes are open and colourful, in stark contrast to the city scenes. For me, this was jarring, but now I understand the palette choice, it further indicates how much thought and care has gone into making Rain work as a story.
A story of relationships and discovery, I’d encourage you to give Rain a go. It’s no easy read in terms of the issues it covers, but alongside that it does, at least, offer some glimmers of hope that we might yet save what’s under threat from climate change, if we work together. Let’s hope, as the characters do, that this is possible.
• Rain is available now from all good bookshops including AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
• Writer Mary M. Talbot is a Costa Award-winning graphic novelist (for Dotter of her Father’s Eyes) and scholar of international acclaim, who has published widely on language, gender, and power, particularly in relation to media and consumer culture | Web: www.mary-talbot.co.uk/graphic-novels/rain/
• Artist Bryan Talbot is one of the pioneers of the graphic novel, whose works include The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, The Tale of One Bad Rat, Alice in Sunderland and the Grandville series | Web: www.bryan-talbot.com
CLIMATE CHANGE WEB LINKS – TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS
• The Telegraph – 12th November 2019 – The Environment Agency shouldn’t use climate change as an excuse for its own incompetence (Registration Required)
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