Stan and Nan – Sarah Lippett

I wasn’t going to mention the anniversary of Granny Savidge Reads death this year. Not because I don’t think about her every day, I still go to call her after I have read a particularly brilliant book, I just think there is a point you have to move on a little. It seemed that she had other ideas in a random way as on the anniversary I had this bizarre hankering to read Sarah Lippett’s debut graphic novel Stan and Nan. Turns out this was a tale of grandparents and northern families that made me weep for all the right reasons.

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Jonathan Cape, hardback, 2016, fiction, 96 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

The simplest way to explain the premise of Stan and Nan is to simply say that it is Sarah Lippett’s telling of her maternal grandparent’s story and stories. Whilst true, that doesn’t seem to quite cut it for me as this graphic novel packs a wallop in so many ways. However let’s concentrate on the story for now…

In the first part of the book ‘Stan’ Lippett gives us an insight into the life of her grandfather, a man she never knew as he died before she was born. Yet Stan is a man who was always a presence in the house in part because of the photos of him around the house but mainly because of her nana’s stories about him and their lives together. It is through these stories that Lippett builds the full narrative of how a young working class man, who wanted to study art yet due to circumstance had to become an office clerk (albeit in a pottery) before joining the fire service in Wolverhampton where he meets Sarah’s Nan and their family history begins as they go on to have children. But I don’t want to spoil the rest of Stan and Nan’s story because I really want you all to go and read it.

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In the second part of the book ‘Nan’ we follow Sarah’s grandma’s history backwards from her funeral to the point when she was widowed. I won’t say what happens here, other than that in her widowhood it seems Joyce is determined to become the best grandmother ever, suffice to say that Sarah captures all the emotions they feel towards their Nan completely in both her illustrations and the words which she uses simply and effectively. Effectively to the point where it made me cry both for Sarah’s Nan and my gran.

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This is because you cannot but help get caught up in Stan and Nan. You cannot help but compare the love Sarah has for Nan and her family with the one that you have with yours, however dysfunctional or crazy they are. It also reminds us to find out more about the history of ourselves and our families background and how we should find out these stories, and social histories, and treasure and capture them. Here again Stan and Nan really chimed with me with the stories of the working classes of the north, my families roots. I think it would chime with anyone regardless though.

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Suffice to say I bloody loved Stan and Nan. It made me smile, it made me cry (happy and sad tears), it made me think and remember. It just did all those wonderful things that the best books can. It also celebrates the every man and the wonderful stories that made the ordinary seem so extraordinary, something long term readers of this blog will know I adore. So if you can get your mitts on it, it is a real joy to spend your time with, I will be reading it again and again.

5 Comments

Filed under Books of 2016, Graphic Novels, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Review, Sarah Lippett

5 responses to “Stan and Nan – Sarah Lippett

  1. Ann

    Simon, I love it that you remember your grandmother’s anniversary and talk about her periodically. Always remember – there is nothing wrong with it – and talking about her to us is as good as having a regular grieving group listening.

  2. Adam Stone

    Simon, I too have just read this book and it reminded me of my family to some extend. My nan passed away last November at the age of 91 and this did make me think of her and of my granddad and other family members who have also passed away. I thought this was a lovely tribute both to the authors family and to all families.

  3. Karen B

    I think it’s wonderful that you mention your Gran and remember her on her anniversary. It’s a sweet, special tribute to someone you love and admired. We grieve for a long time after someone we love dies and they stay in our hearts forever. Celebrate your Gran as often as you like. I know I’ll never get tired of it.🙂

    This graphic novel sounds great. Unfortunately, I can only get it imported since I live in New York. I’m having trouble getting any online sellers to actually ship me The Essex Serpent (though they tell me it’s in stock), so I imagine this will be even harder!

  4. Isabel

    This is a fitting way to remember your Granny. And it was a great book review also.

  5. I was thinking about your gran only yesterday, because of the Graham Greene season on Radio 4, and specifically because there was a programme (which really, really ought to have been presented by Tim Butche – but, sadly, wasn’t), called Our Man in Greeneland. Made me think of #GreeneforGran.

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