By Tommi Musturi; translated by Pauliina Haasjoki
220 7x9-inch landscape pages, color
2015 Fantagraphics hardcover

Book of Hope coverThe best short description of this volume is on the book’s back cover: “Tommi Mustukri’s graphic novel depicts the melancholic retirement of a couple in rural Finland. As the days veer between the existential monotony and quotidian beauty of routine, everyday life, bigger dreams and ideas take shape. The Book of Hope eloquently and humanely lives up to its title while also serving as a showcase for the medium of comics itself.”

In Hope, Musturi ponders old age. The protagonist, a squat old bald man with a luxuriant moustache, is leading a quiet life at a country farm, and we watch him perform various activities, often musing philosophically as he does.

Walking through a forest, he says: “The sigh of a forest puts everything in scale.” “The eye of the night is lit for the one who has no one to talk to. It watches over you as you lie down to rest in the wonderful night.”

The narrative is divided into five parts. In Part 1, we see a lake and a house, and we meet the old man. We see him dozing, building a bird house, fishing in a boat, eating dinner, walking through the forest. At the end of the day, it rains. When he talks, occasionally someone off-camera responds. Probably, as we learn by the end of the book, his wife, the old lady.

The narrative is accomplished with 2-page spreads. Each incident takes place on facing pages; then we move on. There’s seldom (if ever) continuity from one spread to the next. Each page is a grid of 8 identically sized panels. Neither the number nor the size ever changes. The clockwork-like regularly gives the narrative a leisurely, thoughtful pace, contributing considerably to the over-all sense of an unhurried mundane life, exactly the life the old couple is living.

Part 2 seems to focus on the woods; Part 3, the desert; Part 4, a burnt-out forest; Part 5, the beach.

In Part 4, we finally meet his wife. Part 5 begins with the courtship of the couple and continues into their young marriage—housekeeping, hunting, fishing. The chapter contrasts their young married life and their life now, in old age. The old man makes a kite and flies it. The final 2-page spread shows the couple dancing when young. The next—the last—page depicts their farm house in the blue dusk with lights in the windows. We’ve seen the farm house before, at the beginning of almost every chapter. But this last picture of it is the only one with lights in the windows.

The implication is that life goes on. The implied hope is that it will continue to go on—with all its little pleasures, duties, and imaginings. Just as it has so far throughout this book.

But the attraction of the book—apart from the restful reassurance of the narrative—is the art. Musturi draws with a simple, bold line and colors with complimentary hues. Altogether, an exemplary graphic novel. Here are a few of the spreads, pictures and philosophies.




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