216. A Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novel by Joseph Joffo.
(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
Aug. 1, 2013, Graphic Universe, 128 pgs
"In 1941 in occupied Paris, brothers Maurice and Joseph play a last game of marbles before running home to their father’s barbershop. This is the day that will change their lives forever. With the German occupation threatening their family's safety, the boys' parents decide Maurice and Joseph must disguise themselves and flee to their older brothers in the free zone.
Surviving the long journey will take every scrap of ingenuity and courage they can muster. And if they hope to elude the Nazis, they must never, under any circumstances, admit to being Jewish.
The boys travel by train, by ferry, and on foot, facing threats from strangers and receiving help from unexpected quarters. Along the way they must adapt to the unfamiliar world beyond their city—and find a way to be true to themselves even as they conceal their identities."
This is a tough one for me to review because I had a few issues with it and frankly, found it boring. I have not read the memoir this graphic is adapted from so cannot compare. I've had a look at reviews of the original memoir to see what it's all about and it appears to be a book for adults, readable by high school age, and has received good reviews for being from the heart and for the message it brings to this generation of readers. It is however, noted as being "uneventful" and "not exciting".
Unfortunately, the graphic novel seems to have missed the mark. There is no message here and what we get is a rather humdrum cross country survival story of two brothers, mostly, though the family is included at times, that happens to occur during WWII and the family happens to be Jewish, though in name only. It is made evident that the family does not practice their religion, nor do the boys even know what Jewish is. The father admits to not knowing either giving a brief political description of Jews always being run out of their countries from the beginning of time, not ever mentioning the religious issue. The family's means of survival is to deny they are Jewish at any and all circumstances, come what may. The father even gives the boy a brief lesson in this denial by getting angry and slapping him while he still must deny it to him. Not that I'm saying anything against this, it's just that since the boys have been presented as not even knowing what Jewish is, it's hardly a difficult thing to deny in this. More pathos on this very real and troubling decision and choice that many Jews had to actually deal with spiritually would have been appreciated. The boy's adventure is not very exciting, they never are in danger of their lives, though their parents are, and we see them having a good time despite the hardships they endure. Don't get me wrong, this was all interesting but I can't help but think that the author's original story is not expressed here. The translator made many unfortunate choices of words, making the children sound as if they were 21st century boys; probably by not translating the French vernacular appropriately. Anyway, sad to say either the graphic novel lost the integrity of the memoir, or it's just the English translation. On the other hand I give kudos to Vincent Bailey for a beautiful piece of art work presented here which captures both the time period and the mood.