Book Review: Fun Home
by Alison Bechdel
I'm continuing with my trend of reviewing memoirs-- except in this case, this was not a book I read for class. However, everyone in my class was recommending Fun Home to me. When they saw that themes in my memoir ranged from OCD to questioning sexual identities, plus I was including comics, they were all like Why have you not read Fun Home?!
So I read Fun Home! And I am so glad I did. This is probably my favorite memoir I've ever read. It's honestly beautiful.
This book, told through a series of comics, follows Alison through her early years, from the 1960s through the early 1980s. During this time, Alison explores her complicated relationship with her father, an uptight funeral home director, while struggling with her OCD and slowly discovering that she is a lesbian.
The structure of this book is brilliant. Throughout the graphic novel, Alison weaves in literary threads that parallel the events in her life. Each chapter feels compact and circular in a way that real life rarely does, which I see as a sign that someone is masterful at crafting a narrative. It's hard to compartmentalize pieces of our own lives, much less parallel them with other media. Often, we can't separate the experiences we've had from each other. This book implies that she now has enough emotional distance from these events to analyze them and organize them into such a brilliant form.
The last chapter in particular blew me away. I won't go into any spoilers in the book. However, I just have to talk about the last chapter a little bit. In the last chapter, Alison is in college taking a class on James Joyce. Her father is shown throughout the book to be a literary connoisseur, and their discussions on classical literature often served as one of their only bonds throughout a somewhat distant relationship. In this chapter, Alison is reading Ulysses and discussing it with her father. She brilliantly takes not only the themes from Ulysses, but also the weird constructions of dialogue, and parallels it with her sexuality crisis and miscommunications with her father. I can't even describe it. It's just so good. How did she even think of these things?!
I highly recommend this book! Even though this has been out for a while now, I truly feel that it has elevated the genre of graphic novel to something literary. Beautiful. I'm going to read everything Alison Bechdel has ever written. I've also heard Fun Home has been turned into a musical, and that it's really good too, but I'm worried that I'm so emotionally attached to the literary construction of this book that the musical will let me down. If anyone's seen the musical, what do you think?
Have you read Fun Home? If so, what are your opinions? Based on my love for this book, do you have any other recommendations for me? Let me know!