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BOOK REVIEW: Alone by Christophe Chabouté

| 18 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Alone by Christophe Chabouté

Faber & Faber
July 2018
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Graphic Novel / Translated


Available in English for the first time—the internationally bestselling graphic novel and an Official Selection at France’s prestigious Angoulême Internaional Comics Festival by master illustrator-storyteller Chabouté (Park BenchMoby-Dick).

On a tiny lighthouse island far from the rest of the world, a lonely hermit lives out his existence. Every week a supply boat leaves provisions, its occupants never meeting him, never asking the obvious questions: Who are you? Why do you hide? Why do you never leave? What is it like to be so alone?

Years spent on a deserted rock—a lifetime, really—with imagination his sole companion has made the lighthouse keeper something more than alone, something else entirely. For him, what lies beyond the horizon might be…nothing. And so, why not stay put? But one day, as a new boatman starts asking the questions all others have avoided, a chain of events unfolds that will irrevocably upend the hermit’s solitary life….

Filled with stunning and richly executed black-and-white illustrations, Alone is Chabouté’s masterpiece—an unforgettable tale where tenderness, despair, and humor intertwine to flawlessly portray how someone can be an everyman, and every man is someone.

Translated from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger.


‘His name is “Alone.” Well… that’s what we call him anyway. I don’t even know his real name… He hides whenever anyone approaches. An entire life spent alone on a rock.’
‘What’s he do all day?’
‘That, my friend… is a question I’ve never asked myself.’

This is a really gorgeous tale about a man who has lived his whole life in the lighthouse where he was born, with no company (besides a pet fish) once his parents died.

A stationery stone ship…
A granite boat that doesn’t pitch…
That takes us nowhere…
That never docks…
Onboard this lighthouse we’ll never get ashore…

At first it’s unclear where it’s going… Are the random scenes that don’t seem to line up either with the story of the men on the boat delivering supplies or the man in the lighthouse the man’s dreams? Imagination? Toys?

At times it is heartwarming and adorable and funny to see how Alone, having never left his lighthouse or seen the outside world, pictures things based on the worded description in his dictionary, but at other times it is heartbreaking when he finds words that relate to him, to his appearance, to his solitude. Occasionally he comes across words that don’t make sense by description alone.

This door-stopper that can be read in about an hour will stay with you long after you turn the last page, and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy!

Category: Book Reviews

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