Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Sour Apple by Jerzy Szyłak and Joanna Karpowicz


Sour Apple by Jerzy Szyłak and Joanna Karpowicz
First published by Timof Comics as Kwaśne jabłko in Polish in Poland in 2017. English language translation by Bartek Biedrzycki and Pawel Timofiejuk published by Europe Comics on the 18th April 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Europe Comics : from $4.99 (ebook)
Amazon : unavailable
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

By all appearances they are a happy couple. Married, religious, hardworking. What happens behind closed doors, however, is a secret, even to those closest to them. “Kwaśne jabłko” (Sour Apple), written by Jerzy Szyłak and illustrated by Joanna Karpowicz, tells a story of domestic abuse, a story of a victim and persecutor. This story of violence spiraling out of control brings no hope, instead playing on emotions and powerful illustrations, painted with acrylic on canvas-textured paper, to create a unique atmosphere of horror. It is violence as seen by a painter.

In truth, no one would like to hear this kind of story, and yet such stories are told, and need to be told. They need to be told because they happen to real people, be they old or young, educated or uneducated, pious or atheist. None of these people wants to take a bite from the sour apple in the basket. However, it happens to some. That is why such stories must be told.

I read Sour Apple several days before putting this review together which is unusual for me because I usually know pretty much what I want to say about a book within a day or so. This one has had me repeatedly changing my thoughts and opinions. Sour Apple is an unflinching story of domestic abuse behind closed doors. We see an unnamed woman change from a happily married bride, grateful to God for her good fortune, to a perpetually fearful and isolated wife who is left only with her God to talk to. Even the prospect of bringing a child into this violent household does not spur her beyond only dreaming of escape. Karpowicz's graphic artwork forces the reader to practically see every punch and bruise, yet without us being allowed to intervene. This makes for a horribly powerful reading experience.

I felt very uncomfortable with Sour Apple's seeming acceptance of the woman's predicament and at times also wondered if I was supposed to be 'enjoying' seeing the damage inflicted upon her. Is the story saying that married women should endure whatever their husbands choose to inflict upon them? The husband repeatedly apologises, but in reality makes no attempt to change his behaviour and the wife appears to shun any attempts at outside assistance. I saw that this abuse would potentially continue unchanged for years which is reflective of many such relationships in real life, but I wanted a positive resolution for this story. Instead I am still unsure as to how I am meant to react to this work.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jerzy Szylak and Joanna Karpowicz / Graphic novels / Books from Poland

4 comments:

  1. This one would be frustrating for me too I think, especially if there is no resolution. Like you, I usually know what I want to say pretty quickly - even if it takes a while for me to actually write the words.

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    1. For me this was a weird read. I'm almost certain the authors were showing domestic abuse in a negative light, but a couple of moments felt uncomfortably as though the violence was being glamorised.

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  2. Hmm it seems like the mixed message and meaning is what deeply unsettled you most about it. Whether you should be accepting of the situation or see it as a mindset that some people have and see how scary it is to be trapped in those thoughts. It sounds like one to really ponder over and see if you can decipher what the author may have intended. An interesting predicament to be in...

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    1. Yes, I expected a certain type of ultimate resolution which didn't appear

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