Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)'s Reviews > The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan
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May 20, 10

bookshelves: cat-graphic-books, 2010, fiction, f-fantasy-scifi, favorites
Recommended to Athira by: Sheila DeChantal
Read on May 16, 2010

When I first decided to read this, I wasn't sure exactly how I will find it. In spite of all the praises heaped on this book, I wasn't sure if I will be in the same camp. Not because I doubted its effectiveness but rather I worried if I would even grasp it. A story told only in pictures? You've got to be kidding me! How can the emotions of the character be even expressed, with no words gracing the pages of this book?

On finishing this book, I realized I had a narrow opinion of how pictures can tell a story. I was looking at them in isolation. I wasn't counting on the interconnection between several pictures to do the story-telling, when a single picture isn't enough. And Shaun Tan uses this technique really well. I was very impressed by this book. Without using words, Shaun Tan creates a world that could be anywhere. Even the language used by the characters in the book is not English. In fact, the reader doesn't even need to understand the words, edit, the reader shouldn't understand the words.

A man leaves his hometown and moves into a new city, hoping to earn enough to send for his wife and daughter soon. The impression of dragon tails hanging over his hometown conveys the danger of staying there any longer. When he arrives at the new place, the first sight that greets him is a statue of two men shaking each others' hands, aka the Statue of Liberty. The new town is as strange as it can be, with oodles of perceived fantasy splashed in every aspect of the residents' life. The pets are strange creatures that I will never wish for in my living room. The machines look strange, the food reminds me of slimy creatures. But much as the whole new environment was disquieting, that was exactly the effect Shaun Tan intended to convey - a new world as novel an experience to the new immigrant, as it is strange to the reader.

Over the next few days, we see this nameless man (and rightly so) meet up with previous immigrants, who share what they went through in their old hometowns. We see how this man embraces his new life, as he tries to adjust. As he starts looking for a new job, we see how his lack of knowledge of the new place's language becomes hindering. The pictures very well convey how he struggled to understand the customs of the new place, and how he adapted over time.

I strongly recommend this book. This was a new experience for me, reading, rather seeing the pictures. To actually enjoy this book, you need to understand what Shaun Tan is trying to tell through the strange world. This is the kind of book I will return back to a few more times, since there is so much being told in each picture.
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message 1: by Adrianna (new) - added it

Adrianna Great review!


Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day) Thanks Adri!


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