Review Blog

Mar 05 2018

Parvana a graphic novel by Deborah Ellis, adapted from the film by Norah Twomey

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760631970
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Graphic novel. Themes: Afghanistan, Refugees, Taliban, Extremism, Survival. From the highly acclaimed and awarded novel, Parvana, comes this pared down version presented in a graphic novel format, destined to entrance another generation of readers who will seek out the original stories once they have finished the graphic version.
Every page is replete with the horror of living under religious extremism; the rules imposed upon the population of Kabul in which Parvana and her family live are part of the fabric of the story and its illustrations. In dark, threatening browns, reds and blacks, the ever present threat of arbitrary rule is made real. Parvana's father has lost his job as a teacher, now selling his skills in the market, there to be questioned by an ex pupil, scathing of education and learning. He is questioned too about Parvana, a girl, being allowed outside or having part of her face exposed, but when he is taken to prison, the family loses all contact with the outside world. As women are not allowed in the street alone, Parvana dresses as a boy to earn money to support her family.
The appalling regime and its impact are seen on every page as Parvana tries to earn money to help her father get out of prison. The usual rule of law has broken down, allowing men to use their power to further impose their wills upon women. Small touches of humanity shine through the gloom, as Parvana finds a school friend doing the same as she, when she reads the letters of illiterate people willing to pay money to find out about their families, and where someone helps Parvana in her search for her father.
But in the end although Parvana finds her father and her family have escaped the brutal man who would use them, the future is bleak.
Readers will ponder long after this is read about how they would survive, and about how all those children still under the rule of these fanatics are faring. A film made of the Parvana books, called The Breadwinner received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2018, and it is on this film that this graphic novel is based.
Fran Knight

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