Blankets is an autobiographical tale focused Craig Thompson’s childhood and early adulthood. It encompasses a lot and we’re presented with his relationship with his younger brother, and then as he grows older we see the first fragile, wobbling steps into love. It’s also huge, you can’t really tell from that picture but it clocks in at almost 600 pages.
That should give you a better idea. And damn, it’s a beautiful thing to read. I absolutely love this. I was transfixed from the very first page. With it being autobiographical it has an intimate feel and I ended up genuinely caring for the characters presented here. It resonated with me and generated some strong emotions. Thompson presents his memories and feelings with honesty and affection, and doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of his life.
The themes running through the book are pretty common ones but they had handled expertly, although be warned, there is a lot of angst. Personally, I love angst, but some people may not enjoy this aspect as much as I did. Thompson was brought up in a Christian community so there’s a lot of guilt and pressure placed on him. As an atheist it’s hard to read about because it elicits strong feelings due to the ignorance on display. The relationship with his brother begins as the focal point but it quickly shifts to Raina, a girl Craig meets at Christian camp and subsequently falls in love with. The way this relationship was presented perfectly captures the longing and excitement and fear and pain and sheer exquisite delight of first love. It’s a sweet romance but again it’s approached with the frankness of maturity and hindsight.
Although the book takes place in the early 90s it also has a somewhat timeless quality due to the strong themes and the snowy artwork. The pace is relaxed too, so while the size of the book may seem daunting it’s actually easy to breeze through it. The artwork is gorgeous, with expressive brush strokes and at times we can tell how much reliving these experiences is affecting Thompson. The format is cool too, with a lot of blank space that highlights the isolation many teenagers feel. There are a few neat tricks with the layout peppered throughout the book too, which I appreciated it. There are thematic links throughout the work, especially with blankets, which come to play an important role in both of the prominent relationships.
The ending is one that I think will leave many readers feeling unfulfilled. At first I felt the same, because there are many lingering questions about what happened to the characters but I suppose that’s just the way life goes. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the people in Thompson’s life to read these, not least his parents because he presents a stark depiction of them as, well, not cruel, but very forthright with their beliefs, and I wonder if they realize how much they warped their son’s perception of the world.
Blankets is a phenomenal piece of work. The artwork is spectacular while still being grounded, and there’s just an effortless quality to the whole thing. The characters are strong and you end up caring deeply about them, even some of the supporting characters. It’s poetic, beautiful, and completely captivated me. This deserves to be read by as many people as possible.