Internationally bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, and graphic artist Eddie Campbell, of such seminal works as From Hell by Alan Moore, collaborate on a wonderfully bizarre collection that celebrates and satirizes love of all kinds. With 16 different stories told through illustrated prose or comic panels, the couple explores the idiosyncratic nature of relationships in a variety of genres from fractured fairy tales to historical fiction to paper dolls. With Niffenegger’s sharp, imaginative prose and Campbell’s diverse comic styles, Bizarre Romance is the debut collection by two of the most important storytellers of our time.
This book was without a doubt the weirdest, wackiest, most bizarre I’ve ever read. And I loved it. It turned out to be nothing like I expected, and instead of being about the authors’ relationship like I thought, it ended up being about love of art, of animals, of people, of magic and mystical beings. I really liked finding where love came into each story, whether it was a comic with fantasy elements or literary fiction.
As with any collection of short stories, I preferred some over others. I found the art style jarring at times, but I still really liked some of the comics. I ended up having two joint favourites, Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. and The Church of the Funnies. Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. was the first story in this book, and was in comic format. This story was pretty standard fiction, and I really liked it being about a bibliophile. It was very unexpected with twists and turns and I was hooked for the whole story! The Church of the Funnies was the penultimate story in this collection, and was a love letter to art (at least, in my mind). It left me with a smile on my face. The vast majority of these stories were published before for different reasons, and this one was actually a sermon written by Niffenegger and was delivered at Manchester Cathedral as part of Manchester Literary Festival in 2014.
I also ended up really liking some of the stories with fantasy elements, like the unexpected ghost story Secret Life with Cats, and the darker ones such as Digging Up the Cat. Every story had something I liked, and I related to each of them on one level or another. It appealed to the deepest, darkest and weirdest parts of me, and when I embraced it, I really enjoyed it.
I’m going to do a quick list with summaries of each story and my ratings of each!
Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. – ★★★★★
Comic. As I mentioned, my joint favourite story in this series. A couple get married, but he wants to have two hours on a Thursday night to himself, and doesn’t explain why. After a while, she gets suspicious and tries to find out why he wants the time alone….
The Composite Boyfriend – ★★★★
Prose. This one was a lovely introduction to the prose in this book. A short story about a history of boyfriends, all of them being not ‘the one’.
RoseRedSnowRidingBeautyShoesHoodSleepingWhite – ★★★
Comic. A very odd fantasy story about siblings looking for Halloween costumes, but ended up being mystical, magical and poignant.
Secret Life, With Cats – ★★★★
Prose. Another one of my favourites and I really enjoyed it. A surreal ghost story with love being a central theme (and a lot of cats).
The Ruin of Grant Lowery – ★★★
Comic. A very odd story about a man who meets a group of faeries in a bar, with an ending that made me laugh.
Girl on a Roof – ★★★★
Prose. A short story about a girl called Nan who has not seen her girlfriend Sylvie since the floods began in New Orleans. A beautiful love story that had such a heavy, poignant feeling.
Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels – ★★★★
Comic. Another wacky comic about a man with angels in his roof, that he gets the pest control in to deal with. Again, this one had a surprising, emotional ending that I really liked.
At the Movies – ★★★★
Prose. Another one I quite enjoyed, about a couple making a movie. A simple but heartfelt story I resonated with.
Motion Studies: Getting out of Bed – ★★★
Comic. An odd story about a woman who posed for life drawing classes and was now part of what was seemingly a photography project. I really enjoyed how the thoughts and feelings of the woman were intertwined with the drawings.
The Wrong Fairy – ★★★
Prose. Another poignant story about an elderly man who had been committed to a mental asylum. Again, we had fantasy elements which were wacky but really enjoyable.
Digging up the Cat – ★★★★
Prose. As previously mentioned, another one of my favourites and I really liked this one. A dark story about a family who were digging up their pet cat who had been buried for 7 years, and wanted to add another recently deceased pet to be buried with it.
The Church of the Funnies – ★★★★★
Prose. A joint favourite for me alongside Tuesday’s, Six to Eight p.m.. A love letter to art that I really liked and left me quietly chuckling to myself.
Backwards in Seville – ★★★★
Comic. An emotional story about a middle aged woman had joined her aging father on a cruise. This ended up being very sweet and I quite liked the art style.
There is nothing that explains this book as well as this quote from the introduction of the book itself, and I couldn’t sum it up better myself: “sometimes romantic, sometimes star-crossed, or merely discombobulated, but all are at least a tiny bit bizarre.”
4 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽