SABRINA (2018) | Nick Drnaso

The first graphic novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize has sent ripples through the literary world. The word “graphic” lends itself well to this story, one that deals with events which are pictorially represented, but in which the key happening is too horrifying for depiction. Reading the story feels more like assimilating information about a weirdly episodic, faded memory.

Sabrina, initially missing, is the titular character, but appears only in flashbacks, memories, hallucinations, and, eventually, all over the internet. The rest of the novel is concerned with her murder and its repercussions for those left behind. The novel examines the validity of the material we absorb online in a post-truth world.

The sparsity of Drnaso’s pastel drawings lends itself well to such complex subject matter. Hopper-esque landscapes pair with razor-sharp cultural commentary, and spookily benign facial expressions fail to belie the narrative horror. Working through the novel in some ways simulates scrolling through a newsfeed, and the process of reading itself feels like a disquieting trance.

Sabrina attempts to visualise the answer to the question: what do our worlds look like once the worst thing imaginable actually happens? The story shows just how easy it is to lazily slip into patterns of dangerous thought. This is essential reading for a generation that simply can’t look away.

Sabrina is published by Granta Books (RRP £16.99).

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