Friday, November 16, 2007

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

What drives so many to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless and the future is unknown? This silent graphic novel is the story of every migrant, every refugee, every displaced person, and a tribute to all those who have made the journey.

I first saw this book mentioned over at Blogging for a Good Book. I hadn't actually heard of Shaun Tan at all before, but I have to tell you that on the basis of this book alone, I am now a fan.

The book itself is beautifully presented , all in shades of black, white and sepia, and all of the drawings are pencil on paper, with some digital colouring. The detailed drawings are amazing and the story is full of imagination and very touching. The story line is relevant and timely here in Australia, and I am sure in lots of other places in the world, especially in light of some recent comments made by Australian politicians about particular groups of immigrants.

The story itself is of a man who is forced by circumstance to leave his troubled homeland, leaving behind his family, and travel to a strange new country where everything is different, and I do mean everything. The food, animals, culture and language are completely strange, and the man is somewhat lost until there is a friendly face who will help him understand where to go and what to do. Many of these helpful people are others who have undergone a similar process, having had to learn the basics of things like how to cook, and having had to work in low paid and manual jobs in order to just survive in this strange new land.

There are literally no words at all in this book, at least not words that we can recognise. Where there are words on buildings and things they are in a strange symbolic language. The images and the storyline represented are so strong that no words are necessary. The use of elements of fantasy to represent the threat in the old homeland and some of the things that are found in the strange new world are a very strong symbolic reminder to us that for many people who migrate to countries like Australia the things that they find here that are every day to us are sometimes completely foreign to the migrants.

For some example images and some very interesting comments by the author, click here and then select The Arrival.

This book is highly recommended. A very poignant and vivid story told in a beautiful way. I already have my next Shaun Tan book on request from the library.

Rating: 5/5

Other blogger's thoughts:

Rebecca Reads


  1. I had NO CLUE as to what to expect from this book and found it to be very powerful.

    Thanks for the link to the author's comments. Off I go! :)

  2. This is a book I will read over and over again. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention.