Callum McLaughlin's Reviews > Irmina

Irmina by Barbara Yelin
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bookshelves: graphic-novels, war

This is a war story, but not one about the hardships of the front line or the horror of the concentration camps. Instead, it is a remarkably subtle look at how easy it was for those on the periphery to abandon their former beliefs, and to slip into a life of quiet complicity.

Inspired by the diaries of her grandmother, Yelin created Irmina, a young, non-Jewish German woman. She begins the story in London as a highly ambitious, strong-minded, independent, and career-driven character, who speaks up in the face of injustice, and has big dreams for her future. When WWII breaks out, and events lead her back to Germany, we watch as each of these traits slowly leave her; quashed by the oppressive influence of Nazi rule and widespread everyday prejudice.

As such, Irmina's story offers a unique insight into a generation who looked the other way, through choice, necessity, or wilful obliviousness. People like Irmina may not have fuelled the war directly, but their silence did little to help those under direct oppression, or themselves for that matter, find freedom, happiness, or fulfilment.

I liked Yelin's art style well enough, particularly the moody colour palette, which I thought was tonally appropriate. I also thought the writing was largely solid. Though I will say; I'm not sure if it was a translation blip, or something carried over from the original German, but I did think there was a heavy overuse of exclamation marks. A small gripe, granted, but one that really stands out once you've noticed it.

The impact of the book is understated (I must admit, I expected a bigger sense of revelation or development for Irmina in the book's final third), but it does leave us to ponder its themes of complicity and culpability. After all, it is in many ways a story about what is left unsaid.
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Reading Progress

April 12, 2018 – Shelved
April 12, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
April 12, 2018 – Shelved as: graphic-novels
August 2, 2018 – Started Reading
August 3, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 15, 2018 – Shelved as: war

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