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by Jenny Robins
(Myriad Editions, £16.99)
JENNY ROBINS has cooked up the perfect lockdown treat in this award-winning graphic novel. Friendship, between both friends and strangers, is the sweet centre of a book which won the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition in 2018.
Biscuits (Assorted) is sometimes bitter-sweet but never saccharine. Each woman depicted is authentic and instantly recognisable and individualistic. They do not fit the cookie-cutter stereotype.
There’s Lucy, staying sane in her call-centre job by playing a game of profanity bingo. Her handmade card shows squares citing “Cock” and “Piss off” among the many customer responses to her cold-calling and she leaps up, shouting “BINGO!”, to a complete absence of response from her workmates.
We meet Maya, constantly chattering away on public transport. We’ve all sat next to a Maya — sometimes, we have been Maya. There’s a deft seeding of a very gentle narrative and we find, in time, that this is her way of bringing comfort to an anxious and fearful friend.
Clara searches for a date but only to please best friend Helena, stressed by wedding plans and pregnancy. There’s cheery optimism and bumpy bathos in only a few frames, as Clara gets an instant reply from a potential “plus one.” She shows her friend: “He responded with a dick pic.”
Hana, resolutely cheerful on her check-out, mentors her colleague Piotr in the ways of London and he’s a quick learner. “Do not talk to people on public transport except in special circumstances,” she instructs,“it is not so important where you are from, but whether you live north or south of river” and “do not expect to ever buy house.”
These little whiffs of cynicism are wafted away, as Robins has Hana defiantly chatting with customers. She tells Piotr: “Most people want to talk to you, really; you just have to look for clues to what they might want to talk about.” Hana loves London and it seems to love her back.
Apart from these beautifully crafted characters, there’s another love affair, with the city itself. Clara claims that it’s “the greatest city, I think we can all agree, the true city of love. And pain. And really expensive beer.”
This is a book for a cosy armchair and several mugs of tea. It comes with a warning: you will miss your friends; you will miss your home town and there’s a chance you might miss hobnobs.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Jenny Robins is being interviewed at 7.30pm on Monday March 8 online by Cartoon County — free sign-up at bit.ly/3dP4yqH
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