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The celebrated Spanish cartoonist’s most ambitious work yet is a touching homage to his mother and a bittersweet depiction of life in post-war Spain.
It all starts with a photograph: an ordinary scene of a young woman and her family picnicking at a Valencian beach in 1947. Now in her twilight years, Antonia cherishes this photo dearly; it holds the memories of her upbringing, her family — the key to her Eden. Taking off from this routine family outing, cartoonist Paco Roca paints a heartfelt portrait of his mother’s formative years. This delicate portrayal of a humble family is at once an intimate biographical story and a broader reflection of the hardscrabble existence many faced in post-war Spain. Antonia and her family soldier through constant hunger, the shady dealings of the black market, traumas of war and parental abuse, and the oppressive atmosphere wrought by the Catholic church and Franco’s authoritarian regime — and yet, they find oases of joy and wonder in cinema, imagination, and small acts of kindness.
Roca is known the world over for his quietly powerful graphic novels, from Twists of Fate to The House, and this latest masterwork may just be his magnum opus. In Return to Eden, Roca manages to charge quotidian life with rare poignancy, in all its daily struggles and daydreams, and readers will come away deeply affected.