Book Review – Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds

Noted as ‘Britain’s favourite graphic novelist’ on the back cover blurb, but I’m ashamed to say I had not heard about Posy Simmonds before I became aware of the release of this book.

Cassandra runs a London art gallery. We are introduced to her as she is trying to avoid the widow of an artist. We soon learn she is very greedy and selfish. Her assistant at the gallery resigns almost as soon as she is introduced in the book due to Cassandra’s selfishness and lack of empathy.

The art in the book is mixed with text and speech bubbles. It feels a little incongruous to have substantial chunks of text within a graphic novel.

The artists widow discovers that Cassandra has been selling unauthorised copies of her late husband’s work, there is public scandal a court case and community service. Cassandra doesn’t much care.

Simmonds Art is clear, muted colours and textured shading give a wintery feel. There are occasional bright flashes of colour, a picture on a wall, a shop window display, chicken nuggets with chips and baked beans on a plate.

Cassandra takes in Nicki, the daughter of her ex-husband. Gives her a room and some money in exchange for Nicki being her ‘gofer’ essentially. A game of dare at a friend’s hen-do leads to the attempted rape of Nicki.

The attacker is a man named Deano. Nicki learns this off Billy, a former acquaintance of Deano who becomes her boyfriend.

To add to her list of endearing qualities, Cassandra is a hypocrite. She has ripped off clients in a big way, but accuses Nick of stealing food when the housekeeper giver her the left overs from Cassandra’s meals. Cassandra is mean and uncharitable.

Deano has a history of abusing women, aided by his small gang. We learn that Billy has come uncomfortably close to Deano’s crimes and has come into the possession of a gun, which Deano desperately wants back. Unwittingly, Nicki and Cassandra get sucked into a dangerous struggle.

I really wanted to like this book. Whilst I thought the art was excellent and Posy Simmonds makes reference to some pressing contemporary issues, I found it difficult to love. Cassandra does not come across as evil, just someone you wouldn’t have much to do with if you could help it. She’s meant to be unloved but it was also difficult to feel much empathy with the remaining cast of characters.

Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds (Jonathan Cape – 2018)


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