As I have said with most of the graphic novels I have read this year, Alan’s War was a recommendation from Seth Hahne (check out his blog Good Ok Bad). I picked it up based on my enjoyment of graphic novel as history book in the March trilogy.
Alan’s War is the story of Alan Cope. The artist Emmanuel Guibert met him by accident on a beach in France and they struck up a five year friendship until Cope’s death in 1999. Alan Cope fought in Europe in WWII, and after a brief return to the US, he spent the rest of his life in Europe. Originally written in French and translated into English, Alan’s War was released in the US in 2008.
Alan Cope was young. He didn’t turn 18 until the middle of the war. Right at the end of the war, just as he turned 20, he was transferred to Europe. Cope did not see any real battles, but the horrors of the war were still all around him.
Roughly the first half of the book is about World War II. But the rest of the book about his life after the war. He did see battle, so I do not think a PTSD like armchair diagnosis is appropriate. But war does not just effect soldiers through PTSD.
Part of the benefit, and I think part of the problem for Cope is the exposure to the world in a way that broke many of his preconceptions. He seems to have been a gregarious and outgoing person. Most of the stories are about people. Those people introduced him to new ways of thinking, new ideas and new things things. In the army, in Europe, and in US after the war, he met both good and not so good people. Many of those good people rejected Christianity and eventually so did Cope (who was studying to become a pastor after the war.)
Life is not simple. Cope seems to have a rich life. He was married twice, worked in the military, and then after returning to Europe as a civilian, he work for the US military and various other jobs. He traveled and lived and worked in several countries. He claims that he enjoyed life, but there is also a sadness that carries through the book, even in the midst of a number of humorous stories.
What makes the book so engaging is that it full of simple memories and stories that ring true. These are the types of stories that you can imagine hearing from a grandparent, if they happened to be a really good story teller. Some are a bit bawdy. Some are quite personal. But in the end, it is a life evaluated and told. That plainness in it story telling method really works here.
The style of the art is a bit of a throwback to 40s era comics. Although there are sections where the art changes in relation to the story. And toward the end there are longer sections of mostly text to round out the story. The paperback is a large trade paperback size and was just a bit small for my taste. But it was still quite readable. The book was so engaging that I went ahead and ordered a second book by the same author, about Alan Cope’s childhood during the Depression.
Alan's War: The Memories of GI Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert Purchase Links: Paperback