by Nick Hayes
Jonathan Cape

After years spent ignoring graphic novels, I suddenly can’t move for brilliant examples of the form. Cormorance, by British artist Nick Hayes, continues a love affair with water and birds, both real and symbolic, that was drawn large in his previous work, The Rime of the Modern Mariner (2011). In Cormorance, he proves what the graphic novel can say by saying hardly anything at all. There are few recognisable words, save for the sounds of the titular cormorant or the ringing of bells. The story is a two-hander. A nearly-nine-year-old boy moves to London with his parents. After struggling to fit in, most embarrassingly when he wears water wings at the swimming pool, his mother dies suddenly. The boy’s life descends into chaos before finding a new symbolic order combining the river, wildlife and slightly terrifying cormorants. Juxtaposing this narrative is that of a young Indian girl, whose mother is seriously ill. The final section, in which the children find consolation in nature and each other, is quietly, genuinely moving.