Welcome Home

By Clarrie and Blanche Pope
Publisher: Minor Compositions
ISBN: 9781570273940

As the hunger to build new homes in London intensifies, older communities in older housing are being pushed aside so new developments can be built. One particular tower block is already emptying out. This makes it a prime target for squatters Rain, Eva, Tomek, Will and Luca. They identify an empty flat, gain access, and make it a home. Optimistically, they have improbable plans on how to rally the community and save the tower block, but to many of the remaining flat-dwellers, the squatters are an additional trouble they don’t wish to deal with. A small core, however, accepts them, and a slow integration into the community takes place.

This could be a story about trying to save a tower block, but, like all good stories, it’s about the people that you meet along the way. Welcome Home is a reasonably thick original graphic novel, and so without characters you give a damn about it would be something of a struggle to get through. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem. 

The story centres around Rain, an instantly likeable young woman who has got herself into something of a rut. She’s in love with the girlfriend of her house-mate but can’t see it for the folly that it is. She’s living in a squat in a building set for demolition, which is trading some aspects of freedom for a different set of problems. And she’s working in a care home where the staff are little more than an after-thought. She’s got a good heart, making a difference with the residents of the home, but seemingly stuck in a personal limbo.

It’s not just Rain that is well written here. There’s anarchistic Will, as misguided and hopeless as they come. There’s Doris, the confused but buoyant care home resident, and Julie, the indifferent and careless care home manager. Adam plays the theremin and has some sort of romantic past with Doris, and then there’s Yaz, someone Rain knew at school who Rain isn’t so sure she wants to know now. Against the backdrop of the gradual gentrification of the area, and the small injustices and triumphs they all go through, each of these characters and more are given the space to breathe. It feels like a community, and that you’re part of it too.

One of the most joyous touches comes from the casual sprinkling of new development brochures and care home adverts interspersed amongst the pages. The creators run amok with the pretentious word salads, creating a plethora of nonsense that would be a shoe in for Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner. Equal fun is had with the garbled spoutings of council staff, too detached from the community’s situation to see beyond their own babble.

Given the set-up, the story is bittersweet. Amongst the skip-diving behind supermarkets for food, the squalid living conditions, the borderline neglect by the care home owners, and the disintegration of a community to make way for modern housing, there is hope and laughter and love. What we learn is that there are some things you just can’t change, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand still.

An excellent debut book full of heart and humour. If you enjoy a good story, you’ll enjoy this.

And if you liked that: Try Biscuits (assorted) by Jenny Robins

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