For Christmas I received a little fictional bon bon for the discerning literary palate. As my friend pointed out, Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock is a trilogy of strange and delightful images, and a story-line with a mystery.
The entire set of books are inventive and imaginative and wonderful…especially for someone like me who lives to write letters.
It has beautiful, sometimes disturbing artwork that only adds to the postcard and letters that have been written between a couple. I could spend hours just looking at the artwork, finding something new with each glance. It’s that wonderful.
Throughout the trilogy, there is the slightly guilty thrill of opening an envelope addressed to someone else and reading the letters.
Equal parts Romantic (in the Byron sense), Impressionist and Surrealist, Griffin and Sabine is a memorable experience. I read a book each day, while it rained and took my time savoring each book; wrapping myself up in this charming, intriguing, simple yet incredibly layered piece of art.
Its best feature is that it is a very non-traditional book. As an experiment in artificial “found” literature, the book follows the correspondence of two random people separated by miles and culture who are tied together by an inexplicable link. This book is a window into that connection and their discovery of one another.
Sabine has the gift of second -sight and begins to correspond with Griffin since she can psychically see his artwork. She too is an artist. Griffin feels threatened by her knowledge but eventually out of loneliness and her emotional support forms a friendship. Despite his emotional wall, he falls in love first. She reciprocates his feelings, and we sense they are soul-mates.
In the second volume it’s Sabine’s turn, like a treasure hunt, to find the answer to the ultimate question, or maybe to find the question of self. She travels to meet Griffin. Scared that Sabine isn’t just a figment of his imagination, but a real person, Griffin flees. Now their letters and cards are coming from all around the globe. Is it real? Is it love? Is someone else watching them?
The artistically beautiful poetic declarations of love are worth reading over and over again. And every medium is used to its finest and fullest potential from collage, watercolor, print, to script.
A bit darker than the first in this trilogy. The second book ends with another bit of mystery.
In the final book, Griffin is back in England and Sabine returns home. It looks as though they are back to where they began, but they remain determined to meet one another.
And, we are introduced to a third character, who appears to have something to do with their inability to actually meet, but who he is and what his actual intentions are is somewhat vague.
The writing this time around is a bit more grounded, perhaps because of the very real interference in the physical world. And Sabine’s’ psychic gift is waning. The consideration given to the correspondents’ strange connection is played down, with more emphasis given not only to the danger they’re suspecting in their world(s) but also to the physical longing they both now feel after missing each other in transit.
The art feels similarly placed on solid ground, particularly after the trans-global mysticism that seemed to have gotten in with Griffin’s travels last volume. We see less outright experimentation on both sides,and indeed one of the cards this time is simply a color negative of a previous one.
The series could have ended here, and indeed it appears we have seen the end of the extraordinary correspondence between Griffin and Sabine. But the story’s not quite over. And the ending leaves much to the reader’s imagination as to what happens to the pair.
I’d like to think that they formed a union in some far away land and continued to do their art, living happily ever after.
If you’ve read the books please feel free to comment.
If not, I encourage you to do so, and be stirred by lovely art, wonderful prose, romanticism and the feeling of eternal love.