Jimmy Beaulieu, 64 pgs, Conundrum Press, conundrumpress.com, $15
Major power outages are often a source of anxiety. They cause upheaval and chaos in our lives as our gadgets become nearly unusable. The roads become snarled and tempers flare. On the other hand, they also give us an opportunity to slow down a little and take stock of our surroundings and the people within them. A summer blackout affects a couple of Montreal twentysomethings in My Neighbour’s Bikini, a story by Jimmy Beaulieu originally published in 2006 and now translated into English.
Simon, a writer who looks a little like Archie, is at his office when the power goes out and he loses a day’s worth of work because he didn’t save anything. “You know that if I had, there wouldn’t be a power outage,” he dejectedly tells a co-worker. On his way home he spots Bernadette, the titular neighbour, who’s had quite the ordeal getting stuck in and escaping the Metro. Simon finally finds the courage to make an introduction and the two get to know each other during the long walk home.
My Neighbour’s Bikini isn’t the deepest of stories and the characters aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, but at the same time there’s a charm to reading a simple story about a budding romance during a day when everything goes wrong. An awkward dream sequence and abrupt change in seasons almost derail the book towards the end, but they are saved by some of the best art in the book. Beaulieu’s drawings are a delight as always through his use of loose pencil lines and grey washes as well as his ability to capture the unique feel of Montreal in the summer. (Matthew Daley)