Lizzy Stewart’s adult storybook tells an old familiar story …
Halfway through reading Alison by Lizzie Stewart (Serpents Tail, €18.99), I was googling the characters to find out how they are getting on in life these days. So realistic is the story, set in London art circles in the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed certain that Alison, Patrick and Tessa would be still on the scene. But they’re not real, just characters in a captivating new graphic novel that could have been dreamt up by Edna O’Brien and Judith Kerr of The Tiger Who Came To Tea fame, had they ever collaborated. Stewart’s adult storybook (she previously wrote and illustrated books for children) tells an old familiar story – older man seduces much younger woman.
Philandering artist Patrick is briefly in Dorset teaching an art course when he spies Alison, who’s recently wed and at a loose end, hence the art course. He whisks her back to London and installs her in a chilly bedsit. From there, she becomes his muse, cook and lover though he stops short of allowing her to live with him – needs his privacy, you see and then, other women. Alison goes along with the nude posing, the cooking and the evenings out with Patrick’s arty intimidating friends, but her confidence grows when she makes friends with Tessa, an artist but an outsider too. Soon they are fast friends, encouraging each other in their art and generally larking about. Patrick has appointed himself as Alison’s teacher and guide but he is selfish, moody and refuses to show her drawings to his gallery owner friend. Is he really on her side? Alison finally plucks up the courage to leave, throwing herself into projects with Tessa and living as a penniless artist, buoyed up by Tessa. Slowly, through the 1980s, each begins to make a name for themselves. Turning the pages, past gallery flyers, colour palettes and tickets stubs, through their first tentative art shows and onto real recognition. Patrick slips into the past but redeems himself towards the end. Things work out and there’s much sadness, just like real life. Finally, though, for Alison there’s a sense of belonging.
Alison by Lizzie Stewart (Serpents Tail, €18.99) is out now.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.