Zoe Thorogood’s debut graphic novel became a reality last year through Avery Hill Publishing and it was one of those books that called out to me to be read…..so I did!
We quickly get a feel for the titular Billie Scott as the artist/recluse ekes out an existence of sorts while she scrambles for recognition away from the distraction of other people or a social life with anyone, even her own flat mates, but just as the chance of a lifetime comes her way to take the next step along her creative journey, she finds herself with fading sight while a deadline looms. That crushing blow sees her disappear into her comforting life away from those around her but the harsh reality brings her out of her shell and forces her out into a world she’s trying to soak in before it all disappears.
While this could well have been a chance to delve into JUST the creative process with the most severe deadline imaginable, it instead becomes a spark of self-discovery for Billie that lays bare her concerns, her solitary life and the impact the firm focus on her art has had on her own chances of a fuller world to exist in. The quest for subjects in her art brings with her an exposure to the wider worlds and struggle of others which in turn allows the narrative to stray away into new territory for both Billie and us the reader.
The complexities of losing your sight when it’s an integral part of who you are in the case of an artist takes on a whole new meaning as Billie’s story develops and the race against time becomes a shared goal for her and the newly found allies she would no doubt have missed out on in her old life. This new outlook fuels the wider story and while the artistic drive within Billie is key to the direction in the book, it actually ends up being just as much of a look at how us humans can find solace in sharing a struggle regardless of the specific details behind those struggles. The differing characters she finds kindness in are from all walks of life and as she begins to open up to them there’s something far deeper developing at the core of this book as a result.
A collective need to succeed and a collective sense of empathy is something rare if you soaked in the media around us but this embodies the raw goodness that still exists in & around us – albeit it’s kept away from the headlines it so richly deserves. Billie’s predicament starts off as a hopeless venture but it’s evolution into one of hope & connection at a time when the world sorely needs it in abundance becomes a wave of positivity that’s VERY easy to get swept up in.
That positive vibe pours out across the pages in the form of words and images that Zoe seems to feel as much as create which gives the whole book the sense of power it deserves. The characters are real and honest in a familiar & messed up kind of way almost which actually gives the whole book a feeling of taking a glimpse at a world that exists outside our windows. There’s no doubt that she’s content while facing & depicting the difficult subjects in the world but to deal with so many and to still allow the upbeat nature of a character shine through makes me surprised that this is a debut book but fairly confident that it’ll be the first of many.
Heartbreaking in many ways, hopeful in so many more – this feels like the type of book that you can get far more out of than you may first have realized. An infectious look at a world that has hope that’s both in your face and tucked away from view but you can feel it all as things unfold. This means the Billie Scott story is a fascinating one and thanks to Zoe it’s one we can all share & embrace as we reflect on just what happens across these paneled pages.
Catch-up with everything Zoe is working on over on Twitter and get over to Avery Hill Publishing’s online store for this and their other books, as well as their own Twitter for more news on what’s next from them.