I picked up Here while browsing graphic novels in Waterstones on a whim. It’s not a section of the shop I visit frequently – in large part put off by the dominating presence of The Walking Dead (I don’t do zombies). Glancing through big names I’d heard of before – Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona, Stephen Collins’ The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – I was still wary of buying graphic novels,for fear that I just won’t read them. But I spotted this little gem and after flicking through a few pages, I just had to have it.
This is a beautiful concept book exploring the history of just one place – one corner of a living room, at least in recent history, but what was it in the distant past? What might it become in the distant future?
I love how this book concertinas time together to provoke thought and reflection. It creates a space in the everyday and adds a sense of gravity to the most ordinary of interactions It really evokes a different way of thinking about daily life, about our relationship with the landscape and environment around us, about the different people sharing (or failing to share space). About how every interaction you ever have becomes part of a detailed unwritten history of the places you cross.
It also got me thinking about how we categorise history – mostly we separate it into eras, broad chunks of time, with a generic associated location or area. When we do focus primarily on place, it is not with such focus as McGuire attempts here – we may zone in on a country or perhaps a local region, but not a single view, perhaps an acre of land. The closest I could think of is sites which have been preserved, in the way of National Trust houses and gardens in the UK – but even there, when you take in the history of the place, you follow the story beyond the confines of that land. You hear where else important figures lived and had influence, and emphasis and importance skews the picture so strongly. I love how this graphic novel includes the little details which a conventional historical narrative would consider inconsequential – a little boy doing a handstand, a cat crossing the carpet and pausing to lick clean a paw.
I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t get everything out of this on a first read, and I will definitely come back to it to reflect on each page and panel in more detail. The artwork is brilliant, and incredibly communicative of the story McGuire is telling. I honestly can’t name a single thing which I disliked about it – all I have is admiration and fascination. Such a spectacular concept is executed fantastically well by McGuire, with so many people passing through this space at different times and in different ways.