Paul's Reviews > Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
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really liked it
bookshelves: readingwomenchallenge

This is my first proper graphic novel and is part of a reading challenge for this year. It’s by Alison Bechdel and I hadn’t initially realised I knew her name from the Bechdel test. This is a way of looking at the way women are portrayed in fiction and film. The test is whether a work features at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man. This goes back to Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own:
“All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. ... And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. ... They are now and then mothers and daughters.”
This is a coming of age tale about Bechdel’s own childhood and adolescence and especially her relationship with her father who died just after she came out as a lesbian whilst at college. The structure of the whole is quite complex and Bechdel has described it as a labyrinth, "going over the same material, but starting from the outside and spiraling in to the center of the story." Bechdel’s father, Bruce, was an English teacher and part time undertaker, who it transpires was gay (having relationships with young men, sometimes his students). The thread running through it all is literature and the way Bechdel uses it in the memoir, this for me, was the strongest part of the book.
Bechdel weaves in a number of works in a way that does not feel forced or contrived. It is quite likely that Bechdel’s father took his own life and this provides one of the focuses as Bechdel looks at Camus and suicide. She also has a lot of fun with Joyce, Ulysses and the Greek myths, looking at fathers (spiritual and temporal). Colette is inevitably referenced with an exploration of the homosexual milieu, as of course is Wilde. Fitzgerald and Shakespeare figure as does Proust. It’s all clever and interesting stuff and is well written.
We learn very little about Bechdel’s mother or siblings, the focus is on her father and their relationship and on her own growing awareness of her own sexuality. At times the young Bechdel does appear a little self-aware, but this is a minor niggle. On the whole I enjoyed this and it was well written and put together and made me think.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 11, 2018 – Shelved
August 11, 2018 – Shelved as: readingwomenchallenge
August 11, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Lynne (last edited Aug 13, 2018 12:06AM) (new) - added it

Lynne King Paul, you do indeed choose some interesting books and your review is so well written.

I particularly liked:

" Bechdel’s father, Bruce, was an English teacher and part time undertaker, who it transpires was gay (having relationships with young men, sometimes his students). The thread running through it all is literature and the way Bechdel uses it in the memoir, this for me, was the strongest part of the book."

Bechdel's father sounds really interesting. Also throwing in the part time undertaker into the mix!


Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー Great and though-provoking review.


Paul Thank you Jennifer and Lynne


message 4: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue The next one to read may be Are You My Mother? It’s quite a different book than this one.


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