Still Life by Anoushka Khan (Penguin), put quite simply is a picture book for grownups. It is experimental in that it draws from the graphic novel form. Just like you would expect in a picture book, there are fewer words, but powerful ones that engage with the artwork. The artwork in this story is almost like a journey into the psyche and the inner world of the protagonist.
The story follows Pinky, who is comfortably settled in seclusion or rather reclusion and rarely leaves home. But, one day she is compelled to do so as she goes searching for her missing husband, Pasha. The reader follows her journey. She goes deeper and deeper into the village, the interiors where she was born, and where he lived before they met…she goes deeper in to the countryside and forests. This journey mirrors an interior one. One goes deeper into her life and her thoughts.
The illustrations and artwork are a mix of black-and-white watercolour, acrylic, collage and pencil artwork. They create a dream-like landscape. Together with the words the book takes on a thriller like feel. At moments in the book, as she searched for her husband, I felt, just as I would in a thriller, a deep curiosity of what would come next. What was the next layer that the author would now unravel?
Pinky’s interactions with her parents, grandmother and her mother-in-law are simple, heart-warming and touching. It is the story of an individual confronting her fears. One has to read the text to experience the unnerving psychological insight and the intense involvement that draws the reader into the book.
The author Anoushka Khan is an artist and freelance editor. She grew up in Pakistan and the Netherlands, and currently lives in the UK. This maybe her first graphic novel, but Still Life clearly belongs to an esteemed position in the oeuvre!