A young man has problems with his back. His physiotherapist tells him that there is only so much he can do in his weekly sessions, and that he’ll have to start getting some exercise to get rid of the problem. He suggests swimming, and so it begins. Our hero is not natural to the water, his initial few trips are filled with his struggling attempts to adapt to the new world. He grips the edge of the pool panting after his attempts to swim a length, and seems to be doing it all wrong. He lacks the grace and ease of others who move through the same space.
He is befriended by a young woman who tries to help him with his technique and they quickly become friends. Soon his weekly trips to the pool become more about the chance encounters with this young woman than about the exercise. There is no organisation between them, and there are often trips where they do not happen to meet for whatever reason. They are either there are the same time or they are not. We wait through the novel to see how this fleeting romance will develop!
This graphic novel is all about the illustration. It is a book that focuses on capturing a world and everything in it. The choice of pigments in the book is extremely limited. While it is in colour, these are restrained to a choice few, and mostly the strong blues, blacks and whites that are obvious in the images attached. There is a distinction between the world when his head is above the water and that where it is below. Above the water, the images are clearly delineated, with black outlines around everything. Under the water, it is a much looser world where people and objects become fluid. The artist and writer, Bastien Vivès aims to capture the light and sound of the swimming pool, and that is where the graphic novel excels.
The book also captures the silence of the water, the world where voids are filled by the splash and cries and sounds of water filling your ears. It is not easy for communication of any type. The graphic novel doesn’t have much dialogue or text, it is mostly about the images and they are beautifully rendered by Vivès. This makes it a quick read, even if you dwell to enjoy the art work. The books is filled with space and allows the reader to ponder what is going on in the head of our hero and the woman he befriends.
A Taste of Chlorine is published by Random House.