Funny and unforgettable, Jade Sarson’s Art is a Celebration of Life and Sexuality

A world of angry nuns, a repressive father, sexual experimentation, and forbidden desire…

Not, as you may be imaging, my school years (for that replace Nuns with Vicars and the word “repressive” for “hugely accepting” and you’re about there…), but instead “For the Love of God, Marie!” a stunning graphic novel by Jade Sarson, published by Myriad.

Laying in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, I rarely want to pick up anything too complicated to read, so pushed aside some of the weightier tomes on the pile next to my bed and uncovered the rather eye-catching cover of “For the Love of God, Marie!” With a ginormous mug of tea and a purring cat on my lap, I was ready to dive into the world of Marie – one filled with love, emotion, sex, and warmth – in short, the perfect read for a quiet morning.

Jade Sarson is a Lincoln based illustrator and comic artist. She’s best known for “Café Suada” – a webcomic about a war between a teahouse and a coffeehouse, and her Japanese-inspired illustrations have also brought a myriad of other stories to life, many of which are available to read at the Author’s website.

Opening the book and flicking through the pages, it becomes instantly clear that Sarson is hugely talented – not just in the beautiful, vivid character designs, but in the way she allows herself room to play with style, layout and texture throughout. It helps mark changes in tone and time, but also makes for a read that’s charged with kinetic energy and pulls the reader in on a river of story and art, flowing gently throughout the book until they reach the ending – a little flushed, a little short of breath, but very glad they got on board.

Sarson follows Marie closely throughout, moving from her childhood at a Catholic school, her years training at teacher college, through to motherhood and her life as an adult and a teacher. Spanning about 40 years overall, Marie is a magnetic and warm personality with which to spend the time – and, as corny as it sounds, the reader really does go on a journey with her, exploring love, sex, and loss through the eyes of a remarkable woman.

There's a warm, comfortable feeling to a lot of the book, in part due to the sheer joyfulness that Sarson's art gives the reader
Reaching back 50 or so years into the past, it’s a story that's none the less hugely relevant to today's world – exploring sexuality, slut-shaming, racism, and gender identity through the characters, but allowing said characters such life and agenda that it never feels like Sarson is writing an “Issue Driven” book – the questions and situations that arise are simply ones that the characters encounter naturally, the reader alongside them.

In Marie’s case, she’s a woman ahead of her time – awakened by her sexuality and eager to explore the infinite possibilities it offers her. She loves openly, and her passions burn strongly - portrayed fittingly by the fiery golden hair that Marie is drawn with in the art, dazzling other characters and drawing the readers eye to Marie in every single panel she appears in. Those who meet her fall swiftly in love with her and I was no exception, but whilst she is a remarkable, vibrant character, Sarson doesn't give short shrift to the other characters, allowing the reader ample time to meet and fall for them over the course of the book. William, Colin, Agnes, Prannath and Annie are just some of the many individual personalities that are encountered throughout the book - some for brief moments and some accompany Marie throughout, but all are memorable in their own right and explore different areas of life and love through their own, distinctive stories. There's a warm, comfortable feeling to a lot of the book, in part due to the sheer joyfulness that Sarson's art gives the reader, but she doesn't shy away from portraying difficult moments in these rich lives - and there are a fair few moments that had me gasping out loud, in particular, one involving a firework and an unfortunately placed umbrella...

The art allows both the reader and Sarson to explore every inch of these characters - and given that the comic and graphic novel industry tends to contain art in which the characters are all pneumatic breasts and bulging biceps, it's a relief to see quite how much Sarson celebrates the differing flesh that forms these characters. Graphic sexuality isn't just shown, it's embraced and enjoyed and celebrated. Books like this don't come along very often, but Sarson's immense talents make this a one of a kind read - sexy, funny, emotional, and completely unforgettable.

Marie's journey starts in school - and it seems a fitting place to end this review on too. Most of us have suffered through excruciating sex education lessons in school, seeing teachers wishing they were anywhere but in the classroom, whilst trying to keep control of a class and attempting to put a condom on a rapidly bruising banana. If you want to let a teenager know about sex - and the soaring highs and crashing lows that come with sex as part of adult life - just give them "For The Love of God, Marie!". And don't stop at giving it to school children either - it's one I think everyone could do with reading, embracing, and loving.

For the Love of God, Marie!” is published by Myriad Editions and is available now.

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