Robert Beveridge's Reviews > The Three Incestuous Sisters

The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger
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Feb 01, 08

bookshelves: cuy-co-pub-lib, finished
Read in January, 2008

Audrey Niffenegger, The Three Incestuous Sisters (Abrams, 2005)

Niffenegger's afterword for this “visual novel” (as she calls it, to make it distinct from a graphic novel; I fail to see the difference) says that she originally started with a full story and illustrations, and pared away bits of story until she got to where it is now-- essentially illustrations and captions (very little of the text that accompanies the illustrations runs more than one sentence). Which begs the question: why stop there? When you've got such expressive illustrations, do they need captioning at all? Perhaps part of the reason I got to thinking this way is because most of the captions that are here are of the “tell, don't show” variety, and it seems to me they take away from the story being told in the pictures; you'll be spending far more time drinking in the images than you will reading the captions, anyway.

A book like this demands excellent illustration, and Niffenegger has provided that in spades. (The description she gives of how the illustrations were made is truly daunting.) These are pictures that draw the attention like few others in recent graphic novels; they ignore current trends in graphic novel design, instead going for a modern-primitive approach. It's amateurism, but it's inspired amateurism (think Louis Wain here, perhaps), with spare, almost unformed human figures that play out the story against backgrounds that are richly-detailed and show great artistry. There is much to be said here about the juxtaposition; I am, however, not the person to say it.

If only the captions had gone away. ***
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