A Day In The Life Of Alfred …. is all about the patterns

Published On November 11, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

A Day In The Life Of Alfred

by Øivind Hovland

Tabella Publishing


I was tempted into this one by that really striking cover; sparse, minimalist, the simple font, the sudden splash of colour. Lovely. But the minimalism doesn’t really carry on inside, Hovland prefers instead to splash large sweeping black, white and red lines across his pages. It’s nice, just not as nice as I was hoping – but there are moments where the art catches some of the thrill of that cover, especially where Hovland is detailing structural features – buildings, underground maps, regular and repeating lines that become more important the further into the story you find yourself.

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(“06:00, Alfred gets up”. And in the harsh black, white and red lines you can already see the repeating patterns of Alfred’s life and his obsessions forming on the floor. From A Day In The Life Of Alfred by Øivind Hovland.)

A Day In The Life Of Alfred is more illustrated book than comic, art on the left, minimal text on the right. It’s not a problem, just another example of an increasing number of books sitting right on the boundary of comics and illustrated fiction. And it reads like an illustrated story as well, or maybe a prose poem; short, rhythmical and lyrical, as we follow Alfred through his day – alienated, alone, obsessive in his routines and fighting against himself to break out of the cycle of isolation that started with a moment of everyday children’s cruelty:

“Dreaming about his childhood.
That horrible time of rejection and alienation.
They all laughed because he couldn’t do the hopscotch.”

And that’s it, book over, reader left questioning. Did I miss things? Was there more there than I’d seen? I can’t work out whether that feeling means it hasn’t quite worked or it definitely has – is it bad to feel like I’ve missed something, is it good that getting to the end made me go back and study the book’s pages with a more questioning eye?

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(“Alfred’s route to work”. More of those patterns, more examples of Alfred’s obsessional, repetitious behaviour. From A Day In The Life Of Alfred by Øivind Hovland)

I’m coming down on the side of good. When I went back I was looking for the patterns, looking for the details I’d missed, looking at the art to spot the connections, the triggers to Alfred’s troubles. And as I read it again, and again, and again (it’s only 50 pages and maybe 500 ish words after all) it got better each time.

There are more preview pages available on Google books here.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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