Seven Places Without You is the latest title from award-winning Spanish graphic novelist Juan Berrio.
Seven Places Without You Synopsis:
Elena is losing Jorge, and she doesn’t know why. They’ve been living together at Jorge’s parents’ house for some time now, and so far, everything between them had seemed to be going well. But recently, Jorge has been spending less and less time at home. Elena isn’t sure what to make of his absence, and one day, she decides to leave.
“Seven Places Without You” is the story of a young couple’s first experience of a relationship on the rocks; a story that allows time to elapse and silences to lengthen, focusing more on how events develop than on the events themselves. It’s also the story of the spaces where these events occur: the seven places of the title, and of Jorge’s absence.
(EuropeComics, January 2019)
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Seven Places Without You is an interesting application of the graphic novel format.
Firstly, what Berrio has depicted is only a very loose story arc. It is perhaps more aptly described as a collection of life experiences. Better still, it could be termed an exploration of the emotions involved in finding one’s independence.
The soft touch drawing style and sombre base colour palette beautifully evoke the themes of loneliness and loss. Berrio then cleverly adds a different accent colour to the frames in each of the seven locations. This highlights that the emotions Elena experiences post-break-up are intrinsically linked to the situational context and time lapsed. For example, feeling lonely in a crowded party of mutual friends, out of place visiting her family and childhood home, and then contemplative in a park by herself.
However, Seven Places Without You does have its weaknesses.
In respect to plot (such that there is one) I found Elena’s lack of direct communication frustrating. The dialogue, translated from the original Spanish I assume, felt awkward and disjointed at times. Similarly, some swift changes in the mood of interactions felt inauthentic. Most notable of these is a graphically explicit recoupling of Elena and the previously MIA Jorge without meaningful resolution.
Seven Places Without You‘s script lacked nuance in places but Juan Berrio’s artwork is certainly visually engaging and thought-provoking.
BOOK RATING: The Story 2 / 5 ; The Artwork 4 / 5 — Overall 3 / 5
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Genre: Drama, Romance, Graphic Novel
About the Author, Juan Berrio
Juan Berrio has been devoted to the world of illustration for more than twenty years. As a cartoonist, his recent titles include Calles contadas (2008, self-published) and Miércoles (2012, Sins Entido). He is also the author of children’s books and enjoys doing experiments in graphic art, such as Aritmética ilustrada (2006, Astiberri). Berrio was shortlisted for the National Comic Award in 2011 with Dentro de nada. Then in 2012, he won the fifth edition of the FNAC-Sins Entido International Graphic Novel Award with Miércoles. He joined the Europe Comics catalogue in 2017 with the insightful graphic novel Kiosco, originally published by Dibbuks.
* Receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.