The prize-winning British cartoonist Julian Hanshaw makes his American debut with the rich and meditative story of Tim Ginger. Once a government test pilot, now a widow, Tim enjoys a quiet retirement in New Mexico... until a conspiracy theorist starts asking uncomfortable questions, and the haunting reappearance of an old friend provokes some hard choices about when to let go and when to hold on.
Although I've gotten really into graphic novels recently, this is totally different to any of the others I've picked up. This is a mostly general fiction story about a retired test pilot living in dusty New Mexico. He ventures out of his trailer only occasionally to play cricket with his local team. However, when his agent phones him up and invites him to a convention to promote his book (which chronicles his time as a test pilot), he – eventually – reluctantly accepts. After an encounter with a conspiracy theorist and a not entirely unwelcome visitor from his past, Tim's view on life and what he wants to do with it begins to shift and he may even be able to leave his troubled past behind.
After picking this up at the book launch, I read the entire thing, cover to cover, on the train journey home from London. I had very little idea of what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. The artwork is totally different from anything I've read before, but does remind me a little of some of Brian O'Malley's artwork (though this is mostly in the colouring used ... the colours are very specific and have an almost sepia tinge to them, rather than being bold like with comics from the likes of Marvel and DC). The colours really suit the setting and nostalgic feel of the story – the colours almost feel washed out by the sand of New Mexico – and a lot of the story has a sort of dream-like nostalgia to it, as Tim remembers the events of his past and how they changed his life in irreversible ways.
I'm going to be honest and say that I wasn't 100% on whether I would enjoy the story, but it wasn't long before it had drawn me in and vanquished all doubt of the book's enjoyability. It's a hugely touching story of a man who has lost so much, and is discovering that perhaps not all of it is unrecoverable, and that age doesn't define whether or not you're able to start again.
The characters are all fantastic and add their own flavour to the story. My favourite of these supporting characters is Anna, the character from Tim's past. She has written a book of her own, on why individuals or couples decide not to have children – but not only is this a book, it's written in comic form, like the story we're reading, and we get to experience some of the 'real-life' stories Anna writes about for ourselves. I love how this subtly introduces the subject in Tim's own past.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Tim Ginger. It's not the kind of thing, or style of artwork, I would usually be attracted to when I'm looking for a new graphic novel to read, but I'm so happy that I stumbled upon it. It was immensely pleasurable to read, and I'm sure it will be just as fantastic the second time around as well.
I would recommend this to fans of graphic novels – especially if you're looking for something a little different, and/or by a British writer/artist – but I would also suggest that those who are not as inclined to read graphic novels give this a go; you might find that it surprises you in the same way it did me.