The bookstore Simon Antonisse inherited from his father is in trouble. Simon never wanted to be a bookseller, when he was a kid he wanted to be an ornithologist, but somehow family loyalties derailed his plans. Now his wife wants him to sell up the business and that same family loyalty is stopping Simon from making a decision. After witnessing a suicide on a lonely level crossing which stirs up nightmares about a long-buried childhood tragedy, it seems like Simon’s inability to cope with both the past and the present is about to drown him. But then he meets a young student called Regina, and as their friendship blossoms, the lives of past Simon and present Simon are about to collide… every action has its consequences.
This is a beautiful book. Aimee De Jongh isn’t only a wonderful artist, her scriptwriting is also quite fantastic. Thematically, The Return of the Honey Buzzard is a simple story, elegantly paced but with an astonishing level of psychological complexity. De Jongh’s terrific black and white artwork, together with her constant switching of angles, gives the tale a cinematic quality which makes reading the book (and we mean this in the very best way) almost like watching a movie storyboard come to life. She takes her time leading us into the plot and she isn’t afraid to embrace the quality and power of silence. In fact, there are several pages when we watch the honey buzzard soar and watch Simon sitting quietly alone surrounded by the books he is so reluctant to surrender. It’s ironic when Simon’s new friend Regina confesses that she’s clueless about magical realism because ‘magical realism’ fits the tone of this story very well.
De Jongh’s small cast of characters live and breathe on the page, with the inclusion of the honey buzzard and the seamless way she draws both periods of Simon’s life together being especially masterful. She even manages to elicit tension and pathos from three simple frames of a feather floating gently to earth, counterpointing one of the most powerful moments in the narrative. The Return of the Honey Buzzard is perceptive, compelling, and deeply moving and it should be recommended reading for everybody.
THE RETURN OF THE HONEY BUZZARD / AUTHOR & ARTIST: AIMEE DE JONGH / PUBLISHER: SELFMADEHERO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW