What a fantastic surprise it was to receive this book underneath my Christmas tree (sounds like a song title). I had been pining to get my hands on this graphic novel for months ahead. The reason I hadn't? I had already blown my allocated money allowance on books which left me with no way to explain the cost. In case you're wondering, the book is only in hardcover (can't see it printed otherwise really and comes steeply at £20).
I have just finished my first reading of it and I know that I will return to this time and time again. First let me get the blurb of what this book is about out of the way: Habibi tells the love story between Dodola and Zam. From the very start, their relationship is complex. They meet as slaves (Zam nee Chams a three-year old son to a slave woman; Dodola a child-bride kidnapped by slave traders). The love between these two blossoms when they flee the slave traders and set up home in the desert where they make a haven for themselves. Nine years later and it all changes when now Zam is a thirteen-year old on the brink of manhood and it all changes dramatically when he finds out just how Dodola has been providing food on the table.
I found the love story very intense and quite sad but the true beauty of the book lies in the illustrations and detailed drawings. Here is Craig Thompson at his best. As a speaker of the Arabic language it was just divine following the cursive Arabic letters, the calligraphy, the blend of Eastern and Western interpretations of the stories in the Quran and the Bible. Attention to detail at its best. The ink flowing from one page to another. Too much for the senses to absorb in one go. This is a book that should be viewed over and over again. Controversial? Absolutely!
Note: This is a very adult graphic novel with a lot of nudity and topics of a sexual and violent nature. So NOT for the kids!