Questa storia tra di noi, graphic novel by Laura Casali, review

Laura Casali, Arcisate, Varese, Lombardy, Italy, graphic novel, volume, comic book, Questa Storia tra di noi, Our story, Italian, 20-something, Fabio, Erik, sister, Marika, Aki, Caterina, Mara, brother, Denny, Fredrich, Milan, Varese, Pavia, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Dover, England, Hugo Pratt, Milo Manara, Andrea Pazienza, Lorenzo Mattotti, Massimo Mattioli, Elisabetta Decontardi, Deco, Francesca Ghermandi, Gabriella Giandelli, Laura Scarpa, Vanna Vinci, Alison Bechdel,  Gail Simone, Fiona Staples, Joan Hility

Full disclosure upfront: Laura Casali is a friend, and we have been privileged to see the work that is now being published, volume-by-volume, as it reached its final stages.

That said, I cannot disguise the fact that I believe Laura is breaking new ground in the field of comic books, graphic novels, call-them-what-you-will, and that Questa Storia tra di noi (Our story), currently only available in Italian, is a work to seek out.

The story of eight 20-something Italians Fabio, Erik, and their sister Marika, Aki, Caterina and her sister Mara and brother Denny, as well as Fredrich, who are introduced in the first volume, and who live between Milan, Varese, and Pavia, as well as Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, and Dover, England.

Self-taught, Laura Casali started writing some years ago, and her style has matured over time. Her confident command of image, insightful plotting, and crisp dialogue are remarkable for a compelling read.

While the Italian comic book tradition is male, in no uncertain terms, with Hugo Pratt, Milo Manara, Andrea Pazienza, Lorenzo Mattotti, and Massimo Mattioli, springing immediately to mind, there are some Italian women artists. These include Elisabetta Decontardi (Deco), Francesca Ghermandi, Gabriella Giandelli, Laura Scarpa, and Vanna Vinci.

Nonetheless, Laura Casali’s work is probably closer to the American female graphic novel tradition, and artists such as Alison Bechdel,  Gail Simone, Fiona Staples, and Joan Hility.

A feast for the eyes, and a great read, Questa Storia tra di noi, would make a perfect gift for you or a friend who is learning Italian and wants to read something accessible, fun, and thought-provoking.

Since this review appeared, Laura Casali has published two more volumes of Questa Storia tra di noi, as well as a novel entitled Pane e marmellata. Here’s an extract from the blurb:

Camillo ha tutto ciò che desidera: una vita serena in una villetta con giardino, una famiglia che lo sostiene, compagni ed amici con cui uscire, un’ enorme passione per il calcio che sembra promettergli successo, una ragazza invidiabile. Gabriele si accontenta di ciò che ha: un appartamento nella periferia nord, una bicicletta che è quasi un reperto archeologico, un lavoro che lo strappa fuori dal letto ogni mattina all’alba, una madre di cui spesso è lui a doversi occupare, un amore senza speranza. Due vite parallele come le rotaie di un treno destinate a non incontrarsi mai. Oppure si? Oppure, ad un incrocio, uno scambio di binari, un groviglio confuso chiamato amore può cambiare tutto?

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