Sunday, 15 March 2015



Jon Mcnaught

For anyone unfamiliar with Jon McNaught’s work we urge you to change that now.  We should stress at this point that Dockwood is not a children’s book but a graphic novel full of subtlety and the many sweet moments that make up our lives.  Dockwood is split into two parts but each is connected by location; they take place in the same town just as summer fades and autumn blows in.

Mostly wordless, we follow the residents of Dockwood, as well as its animal inhabitants, frame by frame as McNaught wows us time and again with delicate understatement.  We first follow Jim as he makes his way to work in a residential home.  Cars drive by, leave rustle, time passes.  We watch as birds land to inspect puddles, watch taps drip and listen to the radio.  What we are witnessing are the those intimate, unimportant moments that make up a day, and how beautiful they can be.  There is a solemness to Jim’s ritual and to the regime of his working day, it feels slow but not sad.  What we are given is a glimpse into an existence and the time to reflect on how wonderful the parts that make up the whole are.

The second chapter follows a paperboy in much the same way; he chats with acquaintances, delivers newspapers and goes home to play a video game.  It takes real storytelling talent to make that enthralling, to will us to invest our time and that is where Jon McNaught’s real strength lies: he is able to make the mundane wondrous.  The connections between the stories and the characters are so subtle and yet so rewarding.  Watch as the starling’s migration is introduced on Mr Dunn’s TV and then reappears throughout, a sight that is completely satisfying because we have been given the merest hint of what to look for.

It seems a little at odds with the book to talk of the illustrations apart from the text as they are so integral to the story but from a purely aesthetic point of view they are magical.  Screen printed imagery with limited colour is one of our true pleasures in life and McNaught is a master.  There is such beauty in the way he creates puddles, ripples and pools; how many times have you seen a mopped floor become a work of art?  Another joy of the book is the onomatopoeic sounds - all of the klinks, whirrs and munches add another layer of familiarity and we searched for them hungrily. 

If you’re looking for a book that is honest, hauntingly beautiful and completely understated then this is it.  If you’ve never heard of Jon McNaught before, this is a great place to start.

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