A Love for All Ages cover

“A Love for the Ages”

Writer: Daniel Pennac
Artist: Florence Cestac
Colorist: Florence Cestac
Lettering: Calix Ltd.
Translator: Edward Gauvin
Published by: Dargaud/EuropeComics
Number of Pages: 61
Original Publication: 2015

 

A Love Story

Love for All Ages, story told over lunch

Daniel Penanc tells a fantastic love story to Florence Cestac

This is the story of Jean and Germaine Bozignac, the incredibly happy husband and wife who live in a small house in a small farming town in the countryside of France.  They keep quiet and mostly stay to themselves.  Due to that aloofness, there is all sorts of gossip around them.

“Jean hasn’t worked a day in his life!”,  “Germaine cheats at cards!”, “His family disowned him!” etc.

One inquisitive boy thinks to ask them directly, and so their story is at last laid out for all the world — or, at least, the readership of this comic — to hear.

This is a whimsical book for hopeless romantics.  Check your cynicism and your snarkiness at the door, and step into a madcap world of love and struggles — and books.

The Structure

Jean plays cards with young Daniel at the kitchen table.

Daniel and Jean play cards at Jean’s house.

The thing that makes this book stand out for me is its structure.  The story begins with a lunch between the two creators,  Pennac and Cestac.  Pennac tells the story to Cestac in an effort to convince her to draw the book.

From there, we flash back to the 1960s, when Daniel Pennac was a small boy. This is is his story getting to know the Bozignacs.  From there, we learn their histories in flashback.  They came from different worlds and gave everything up to be with each other.

Along the way, Pennac chooses moments to flash forward and back in the timeline.  While the story generally progresses from Pennac’s childhood through to this adulthood and eventually up to the present day in that restaurant, the story also pulls and pushes in slight increments in other directions.

Most impressively, it all makes sense and none of it is confusing.  The story is so well told that the time jumps feel natural and necessary. You can even show the Pennac of today telling the story of the young Pennac as the visuals jump from the restaurant today back to the Bozignac’s house 50 years earlier.

When you read narration over the images, you know which time period each is coming from. There’s no confusion. That’s some slick storytelling work right there.

This should not work.  Nobody wants to be told a story.  They want to be in the story. They want to see it unfold.  Pennac earns the narrations by including them in the story. His current self has a tendency to embellish here and there, though he admits to it when he’s called on it.  But then we, the readers, learn the story of this couple and their “love of the ages” as he does, through his younger self’s eyes . It becomes obvious why he likes the two so much.

Pennac, through this structure, becomes the narrator, the point of view character, and an active participant in the story, itself.

The entire restaurant listens to the story by the end

By the end of the story, the entire restaurant is listening.

If Pennac had told this story straight/linearly, it would not have worked.  Without that wondrous narrator prone to exaggeration, or the redirections in the storytelling as questions arise, or the little back-and-forths between Pennac, Cestac, and the other restaurant patrons that break up the main narrative to add an extra layer to everything, this book would be a little too straightforward and boring.  Sometimes, how you tell the story is as important as what the story is.

For some reason, it reminds me a little of “Big Fish,” just for being a whimsical and slightly fantastic story of love and relationships and family.

 

The Great Florence Cestac

I love her style.  It’s only gotten better over the years, too.  This book has her big nose classic style that’s instantly recognizable.  But it also feels more developed and more intricate than the last book of hers I read, which was done a few years prior.

Her cartooning is spot on in this book, using a 9 panel grid to tell the story with all the little details shining to lend it a verisimilitude at the same time that it feels so cinematic and poetic.  Characters are expressive and easily differentiated through their wild hair styles and clothes choices.

Cupid moves between panels with the couple courting. ("A Love for the Ages")

Watch Cupid moving around between the two lovebirds

She throws in great little throwaway gags and background gags throughout the story.  When the two lovebirds meet, for example, and are sitting on a bench talking, check out the movements on the Cupid statue sitting on the background. It twists around and cranes its neck to see what the two are doing.

A Love for the Ages has dappled lighting by Florence Cestac

The coloring is nice in this book, too.  There’s even more dappled light, which I’m just seeing in every comic now that I know to look for it.  Cestac’s colors tend to be literal, with bright primary colors included. She’s not lighting scenes like a movie color grader or some of today’s biggest name colorists.

It’s a great look for the book, and something that’s unique on the stands today, that I’ve seen.  She has both a unique style and a great storytelling style. What more can you ask for?

 

Recommended?

A Love for All Ages cover by Florence Cestac

Yes, yes, yes.  This is a light hearted tale with a big heart that gives a little hope to the world that things can all right sometimes.  I don’t think you can even call it sappy. The sense of humor and the few bits of serious drama that Jean and Germaine go through keep it very real, and serve to amplify those lighter moments.  And the ending is sweet and beautiful.

 

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #84.)

 

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