The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
This is the third of three reviews focusing on Jeff Lemire’s Essex County trilogy.
Although it’s the least of the Essex County books, The Country Nurse is still a very engaging comic. It simply had a high standard to live up to, and cartoonist Jeff Lemire didn’t quite match the subtlety of Tales From the Farm or Ghost Stories in this concluding portion of his trilogy.
Like Ghost Stories, The Country Nurse takes place in two time periods, following the lives of two young women – one a nun running an orphanage in 1917, the other a nurse working with elderly Lou LeBeuf. Lemire has an interesting two-page spread early in The Country Nurse which slyly spells out the theme of the book, a thread connecting a tapestry.
Flashing back and forth in time, Lemire finds two women whose connections run deep to the LeBeuf family, bringing them into Essex County and, in a sense as Lou’s health fails, escorting them on their way out. The 1917 segment is solid, but not particularly inspired – it seems a quick overview of Canadian frontier life that’s been explored by a number of Canadian cartoonists – including Chester Brown’s Louis Riel and Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage. Lemire’s intent is completely different, a more personal, internal tale, but the nun’s temptation struck me, personally, as perhaps too obvious.
Nurse Anne’s modern-day life was much more compelling, though much of the appeal is predicated on having read the both previous volumes of Essex County, as Tales From the Farm’s and Ghost Stories’ protagonists Lou, Lester, Jimmy and Ken all have prominent roles in her life. Her own family issues seem almost an after-thought.
Nevertheless, if you can find the entirety of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County trilogy in your local library, The Country Nurse is a solid complement to Tales From the Farm and Ghost Stories, providing closure to the characters you’ll certainly love in the first two books in this story cycle.