‘Dark clouds were looming in the distance. We watched them gather, and we wondered… When will it come? How long will it last?’
A monumental storm brings huge and sudden change. We follow a man and his dog through the uncertainty that it brings to their lives.
Through their eyes, we see the difficulties of being apart, the rollercoaster of emotions that we can all relate to, and the realisation that by pulling together we can move through difficult times with new perspective, hope and an appreciation of what matters most in life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Together when I signed up to this blog tour. Whilst I enjoy reading the occasional graphic novel (I wrote a post about some of my favourites that you can find here), this sounded more like an illustrated fable akin to Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. And whilst those sort of books are undoubtedly beautiful, they can sometimes risk being a little twee.
Like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse however, Hawker’s Together avoids being either twee or moralistic despite the importance and scope of its subject matter. Instead, as we follow one man and his dog through the uncertainty bought into their lives by a sudden and monumental storm, the book provides a thoughtful and meditative reflection upon the changes that the Covid-19 bought into our lives during 2020.
Marianne Laidlaw has provided sparse yet philosophical words to accompany Hawker’s rich and detailed black and white drawings, and the two combine together to provide a beautiful and meaningful reflection on the ways we find togetherness, even if we’re forced to be physically apart.
As you can see from the above page example, this isn’t a lengthy book or one filled with dense prose – you can read the whole thing in about 10 minutes. But reading the book from cover to cover once isn’t, I think, really the point of Together.
Sure you can do that and you’ll probably think it’s a sweet story with some lovely art. But it’s a book that invites you to return to certain lines or certain illustrations and to reflect. On what life was like ‘before’, how it has been ‘during’, and what it might be like ‘after’. On what things you want to let go of and what you want to keep. Of connections made – and those that need to be given more attention.
Hawker dedicates the book to his grandfather, who he credits with being the inspiration for his main character, and Together reminded me of my own much-missed grandfather, and all the ways in which I am thankful for his influence in my life – as well as for the family, friends, neighbours, tutors and colleagues who have been there to support me throughout this last year. That might seem a little glib – it’s difficult to translate a feeling into words – but it’s what I ended up reflecting on after putting down Hawker’s book.
Together won’t be for everyone – I suspect that many bookshops will place it firmly in the ‘gift book’ category and indeed the stunningly produced hardback would make a beautiful gift for a loved on in your life. Like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse however, this is a quiet but powerful book that provides a way of reflecting on both the strange and unusual times we have recently found ourselves in, and of provoking conversations about both the losses and gains we may have seen during that time.
Together by Luke Adam Hawker (words by Marianne Laidlaw) is published by Kyle Books and is available now from all good bookstores and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 24 April 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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