09th Nov2011

Review – Sandcastle by Frederik Peeters & Pierre Oscar Levy

by Chris Thompson


A group of strangers find themselves trapped on an isolated beach as things start going wrong. People are dying, children are aging rapidly and yet, despite it all, they can’t seem to leave. Can this motley group discover how to work together and escape the beach before it’s too late? That’s the basic premise behind this exciting new book from artist Frederik Peeters, writer Pierre Oscar Levy and publisher Self Made Hero.
 
Doug and the crew at Self Made Hero have done an incredible job of securing and translating some stunning European releases this year, and Sandcastle is no exception. Credit must be given to translator Nora Mahony who also translated David B’s Black Paths which I enjoyed so much earlier this year. With their current output, Self Made Hero are putting forward a strong argument for why more European volumes should be translated into English.
 
Art-wise, Peeters cleverly employs his style to contrast the tranquility of the setting with the growing uneasiness of those involved. It’s a delicate balance which puts you in the position of a voyeur – a helpless bystander observing silently as events unfold. I hadn’t planned on reading the book in one sitting, but for a brief period of time I was transported to the sands of that deadly beach and forced to watch the story play out.
 
Of course, the book couldn’t survive on art alone, and writer Pierre Oscar Levy does a wonderful job of creating characters you know. Not necessarily ones you like, but definitely ones you will know and recognise. The result is to reinforce the unsettling truth that you can’t always choose those you find yourself surrounded by. We go through life together and make do as best we can.
 
I won’t spoil the ending as the mystery is key to your enjoyment of the book. This is the kind of book I’d imagine Rod Serling writing in a Parisian cafe if he was looking to submit something at Angouleme. It’s no surprise to learn that Sandcastle was in fact nominated for the Grand Prix at the Angouleme International Comics Festival earlier this year.
 
As part of the excellent Comica Festival, Frederik Peeters will be signing copies of the book and taking part in a Q&A at Gosh! Comics London this Friday, November 11 from 6:30pm. Head down and pick up a copy of Sandcastle along with one of the free bookplates designed especially for the event. Maybe I’ll see you there …

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