Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

Not being a big reader of graphic novels/stories, I wouldn’t have picked Emily Carroll’s book up if it wasn’t on the Green Carnation Prize longlist. I had a quick look at it in Foyles and it was so beautiful I bought it.

Through the Woods consists of five stories (and an introduction and conclusion): ‘Our Neighbour’s House’; ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’; ‘His Face All Red’; ‘My Friend Janna’, and ‘The Nesting Place’. Each of the five stories is a horror, most using at least some elements of the gothic genre.

Two themes run throughout the stories: one is the idea of family – what is family? How should families behave? The other is the idea of loss or something being missing or haunted. In some cases this is someone physically disappearing and sometimes returning in some form, in others it is someone who has been possessed by something otherworldly.

The beauty of these stories comes from the gaps that Carroll creates. She doesn’t explain every piece of the tale, the reader is left to piece some elements together using both the text and the pictures. Some are not easily resolved and leave you wondering about different possibilities.

Carroll makes the illustrations part of the stories – nothing is there for decoration, each frame has earned its place – and my, they are beautifully drawn and coloured. Through the Woods is a joy to look at as well as read.

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But be warned: the stories become more intricate and dark as you read through the collection, until the point when they are shit scary (technical term). Don’t read them in the house on your own or just before you go to sleep.

Through the Woods made me think I should venture further into the world of graphic books, particularly if there are others out there as successful as this one. Highly recommended.