Tamara Drewe is a comic strip that appeared in the Saturday edition of the Guardian newspaper as a comic strip between September 17 2005 and October 20 2007. It’s the story of a rich heiress and columnist who decides to move in her family’s countryside estate. Drewe, a beautiful and alluring woman with a recent nose job, captures the heart of local gardener Andy, detective novelist and owner of a writer’s retreat, Nicholas Hardiman. Drewe’s presence inadvertently sets up a series of intrigues that threaten the marriage of Nicholas Hardiman with wife Beth, while attracting the attention of local town’s folks and teenagers. Will the Nicholas’ couple survive Tamara Drewe’s presence? The comic strip is loosely based on the 19th century novel
Far from the Madding Crowd.
It’s fun that some newspapers are still willing to allow original comic strips to thrive and expand. However, the argument of the publisher of the collected edition of
Tamara Drewe that it is a marvel of adult literature is exaggerated.
Tamara Drewe is a complex story with several plot twists and intriguing characters, but it’s hardly more groundbreaking than your average night-time soap opera.
What Simmonds does well is capture a fraction of a middle class in England, the one that lies just beneath the excesses of British celebrities and the monarchy. But it’s not the world of the great industrialists and businessmen. It’s the world of the arts and cultured people. The comic strips shows the gentrification of the English countryside and how that changes the lives of people who live there permanently and those who visit on weekends. For that,
Tamara Drewe is a valuable social commentary on the current social history of England.
Looking at how Tamara Drewe longs for the champêtre life of writer Nicholas Hardiman, while he longs to return to the jet setting life that Drewe mingles with every day, it’s amazing to see how the two characters could have ever found a middle ground where their affair could have existed. That both failed to live in the settings of their respective partners was even more telling. Is it that men are not suited for the quiet countryside life and that women, are more reluctant for an urban and upscale life?
This comic strips also includes a lot of prose writing which gives insight into the characters minds and feelings. Simmonds could have rendered that part as pure comic strips, but it would have made her effort longer. It took me close to four hours to read all of this book. Nevertheless, the integration of the words to the comic strip page was smooth, although it wasn’t always sure what was the right order to read the panels on several pages.
Simmonds is a good illustrator with sinewy lines drawn with pencils. This gives the pages a soft and comforting look that is interesting but much different from the vectorized cover. On the cover alone, I would not have picked up this book at a bookstore.