Title: Castle Waiting
Author: Linda Medley
Published: 2006, Fantagraphics Books
Category: Graphic Novel
Believe it or not, this is the first graphic novel I've ever read. I'm so behind the times here. I was never a comic book reader as a kid, so I just never got into them. But there was a piece about graphic novels in a recent Shelf Awareness email, with a recommendation for this one. It sounded interesting.
Castle Waiting starts out with a brief, and relatively standard, retelling of Sleeping Beauty. But after the princess is awakened by the handsome prince, it takes a sharp left turn out of the traditional fairy tale. The princess rides off with her prince, leaving the castle, still surrounded by bramble, without a ruling family. The town around it degrades to nothing, and the castle becomes a sanctuary for all sorts of misfits. The book centers on a young pregnant woman who flees her abusive husband and arrives at Castle Waiting, where she meets the kind, if odd, inhabitants: the three aging ladies-in-waiting, a bearded nun, a man heartbroken by the death of his family, and a jolly housekeeper and her "slow" son, among others.
This is in no way a traditional fairy tale! It presents some great themes that are actually quite anti-fairy tale. Feminism for one -- a couple of the stories show women shaking off bad men to live independently (and much more happily). And the rest of the stories revolve around acceptance of people who are different. The characters are all oddballs in some respect, but they are wise enough to discover that their differences are not something to overcome or do away with, but traits to be appreciated as something that makes them unique.
My one big complaint was that the book can really be divided into two halves: the first dealing with the pregnant woman getting to know everyone at Castle Waiting, the second telling the life story of the bearded nun. I think these stories were originally published as comic books over a period of time, which could explain the disjointedness. But I kept waiting to get back to the story of the people actually living in Castle Waiting. And then the book just ended.
I liked the illustrations, though I'm no great judge. I did get confused a couple times when I couldn't figure out immediately from the drawings which character (especially the women) was being depicted. But maybe the fault is in me, because I read a PW review that praised the book for the opposite thing. I guess I'm too much a words person. ;)
But this was a positive enough experience that I want to read more graphic novels. So if anyone who has recommendations, please share!