The Night Bookmobile
This is author Audrey Niffenegger's first foray into graphic novels, but she is by no means a newcomer. Niffenegger is the bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the two critically acclaimed novels-in-pictures, The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress. Yes, it looks like she’s a natural contender for the world of graphic novels.
The Night Bookmobile shadows the life of Alexandra, a subdued young woman who has a chance encounter with the Night Bookmobile—a roving library in Winnebago form. The library is run by a very demure and mysterious man named Mr. Openshaw and, once inside, Alexandra realizes that the library only houses things she’s read. Mr. Openshaw explains that the library comprises all the matter ever read by anyone alive and on this night, the library’s catalogue belongs exclusively to Alexandra.
Once home, Alexandra tells her boyfriend Richard the story of the Night Bookmobile and when he refuses to believe her story, Alexandra decides to keep it to herself—and this is when the trouble starts. Alexandra becomes a shell of her former self and even begins wandering the streets at night searching for the Bookmobile. When her boyfriend accuses her of having an affair, Alexandra does little to convince him otherwise. Soon, she’s living alone in her apartment with nothing but her books and her thoughts to comfort her. Alexandra runs into the Night Bookmobile just twice more over the course of the story and as the books she’s reading start taking over her apartment and her life, she begins to consider all of the things she’s given up for reading.
There is a sadness that lingers over each page of Niffenegger’s story and though it could be argued that we never really get a feel for Alexandra’s personality, her silence speaks volumes and the illustrations help convey this drab, bleak world she’s living in. Each gesture and facial expression illustrated is almost hyper-realistic and the use of a monochromatic color scheme works to convey the heaviness of the story we’re watching unfold—and that’s exactly what it feels like. I found myself wanting to reach out to the Alexandras of the world, perhaps get a laugh out of them. Sadly, we don’t see a smile from Alexandra until the very end, and it’s under less than ideal circumstances.
With her creation of such a quietly compelling protagonist and her use of realistic drawings, Niffenegger has managed to write a stirring graphic novel that readers will find to be thought-provoking and haunting. If you’re anything like me and the abrupt end to this morose story leaves you wanting more, take solace in the fact that this is just the first installment of a larger work called The Library that Niffenegger has planned for the near future.
Reviewed by Tina Vasquez on September 1, 2010
The Night Bookmobile
- Publication Date: September 1, 2010
- Genres: Graphic Novel
- Hardcover: 40 pages
- Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
- ISBN-10: 0810996170
- ISBN-13: 9780810996175