Overview

Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse

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Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse

Credits

  • Words: Jeff Lemire
  • Art: Jeff Lemire
  • Inks: Jeff Lemire
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
  • Price: $9.95
  • Release Date: Oct 8, 2008

Jeff Lemire brings his much lauded and powerful trilogy about the lives of folks in Canada to close with a day in the life of Anne Quenneville, the eponymous nurse.

It was evident to anyone who read the first two volumes that Essex County was about family. Farm life and Hockey were merely set dressing, no matter what the back of each volume told you. They were a way to show that the universal themes presented here were taking place in Canada.

The use of local idioms, like "Eh!" was also to serve this purpose. However, the Canadian accent that comes through in the author’s dialogue is from a natural cadence and understanding of the language as opposed to awkward dialectic spelling. This subtlety is a trademark of the larger work which is ended in this third book.

While family was a theme of the books, it was not clear how pervasively the theme was tied to everything that happened in the two proceeding tomes until this conclusion. Lemire expertly wove a larger family saga in the community. With flashbacks to the founding of the area in 1917, he tied what at first seemed to be separate vignettes into a sprawling epic of genetics and geography that rivals East of Eden in both its scope and power. This is especially true given the concise nature of this graphic narrative.

Anne is the tie that binds the past to the present. She is the needle that pulls the fabric of the rural countryside into a tight seam. She manages to keep even the most frayed edges together throughout the years. Her healing is not merely regulated through her medical training. She also has a knack for providing much needed spiritual healing to the community. The irony is that as important as she is to the people in town, she is almost invisible in her own home and to her family of blood.

The advice that she takes from the matriarch of Essex County allows her to provide for the greater good, not be beat down by her emptiness at home. It is in the tales of this wise sage of a woman’s early years that we learn much about how things change only to remain the same. Quite literally as the crow flies, we are not far from where we started. There is a bit of magic realism that is so slight it could easily be missed by a neglectful reader. However, every bit of this book is important and to those that notice; this flight is full of power.

With a kinetic line and a light brush stroke, Lemire brings the people and County of Essex to life. The story has a quick pace even if its subject does not. The feeling of motion that is prevalent in each panel accessorises the story’s beat.

While there are no wasted ideas in the script, there is no wasted ink in the art. The detail is rich when needed allowing for a reality to seep into the cartoon style. It also complements the themes of the story allowing the reader to notice the resemblance of the genetic countenances as well as the familiarity of the principles’ actions and distinguishing traits. It is a perfect synergy of art and word that can seems to only be possible through a singular, masterful cartoonist.

Lemire tells the tale of two families through time and the sprawl of rural Canada. The human spirit is illustrated in overcoming not only a bleak environment, but its own worst impulses and neuroses. Essex County is an achievement of not only graphic narrative, but literature as a whole. It should be proudly displayed on the shelf next to works by Steinbeck and Esquivel.

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