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Paul at Home by Michel Rabagliati review – sweet sorrows

In this latest instalment of the melancholy Paul series, our nerdish hero is lonely and adrift – as well as bleakly funny

If the latest volume in the long-running, semi-autobiographical Paul series by the Quebecer cartoonist Michel Rabagliati is by far the saddest of these wonderful books, it’s also much the better for it. No one writes, or draws, the nerdish white male quite as Rabagliati does, but in this volume, as his titular hero finds himself adrift in middle age, there’s a special richness: a melancholy that has its perfect expression in his monochrome pages. A story of loneliness and loss, it could hardly have arrived at a better moment. Who knew that I would find Paul’s daily dread so soothing? Who would ever have guessed that his crotchety musings on such subjects as sleep apnoea, mobile phones and internet dating would suit my present mood so marvellously well?

Paul is a successful illustrator and comic book writer. At the Quebec book fair, his signing queue is long, and the fans in it (mostly) devoted. But his outward success has little bearing on the rest of his life, which has fallen into what can only be described as decay; a decline symbolised by his mouldering back-yard swimming pool, and the rotten old apple tree that stands next to it. His back aches, he sleeps badly and, thanks to a disaster with a tooth, his head aches permanently.

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