Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guilbert sprung from an accidental meeting between Guilbert and the elderly Alan Cope. When they got talking, Guibert became fascinated by Cope's recollection of his experiences of the second world war and convinced him that they should be translated into a graphic novel form.
Anyone who has seen Guilbert's The Professor's Daughter will be aware of Guilbert's beautiful ink-washed art, but in this book he has a adopted a notably restrained approach. Some panels are extremely sparse and seem slightly blurred projecting a feeling of a distant, barely remembered moment. As the story progresses Guilbert seems noticeably able to draw more closely to photographs for figures as well as machinery.
Time and place have been captured appropriately and he retains an expert eye for storytelling. What makes this book exceptional is that it isn't another story about the horrors of war and neither is it filled with important historical moments. It's about a young man leading a relatively charmed army life and beyond through an extraordinary time in history.
What inspired Guilbert about the story and what is successfully communicated is Alan Cope's indomitable spirit and his extremely positive frame of mind. It's all about the old adage that it's not what life throws at you, it's the way you respond that counts. "Knowing that I HAD to go to war" he writes "I had always thought, I'm going to think of this as an adventure, I'm not going to be afraid, I'm not going to say that it's a personal tragedy".
Alan's War may prove to be an important book in the genre of graphic memoir. However, given the book's length and the story's breadth, it seems a appropriate that the term graphic novel is retained. Could one day be deemed a classic. SLS