‘Red Winter’ a cold, brooding tale

Red Winter

Anneli Furmark, 168 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly
drawnandquarterly.com, $24.95

In the middle of a cold, dark winter and rising tensions amidst the Swedish labour movement, Siv and Ulrik fall in love. Siv is a mother of three children and wife of dull, but reliable working-class man. Ulrik is an impassioned student dreaming of a Communist revolution. They meet under the clear and cold skies of a sub-arctic winter feeling equally restless with their lives. Ulrik wants them to run away together. Siv, who is 14 years his senior, is cautious.

The story and illustrations in this graphic novel work together to create a cold, lonely, and brooding tale. Siv reflects, “I’m smothered and lonely at the same time. How can a person be alone with three children, one husband, and one lover?” The combination of the political tensions, deep cold, isolation, and hopeless romance creates a feeling of imprisonment. In Siv’s words, “I’m a prisoner of this winter. Winter and capitalism.”

Without some understanding of the Swedish labour movement, much of this graphic novel seems inaccessible. Likewise, it is actually the third in a trilogy by Furmark, but the only one to be published in English. While those two elements make the depths of the story harder to access, it is still an enjoyable book that leaves you with the appropriate chill.