Together by Luke Adam Hawker
Sometimes a book comes along that is strikingly beautiful – well produced, with lovely illustrations and a text that is worth reading. This is such a book. It is beautifully illustrated, with drawings that at first glance all feature an older man and a dog, but looked at more deeply contain a multitude of small depictions of people doing many different things. It speaks of a storm coming, that will change our lives, but this is really the first Lockdown of 2020, the arrival of a virus that caused fear and more. Witty, reassuring and generally lovely, this is a book to treasure as a witness to some of the things that we all felt and continue to experience. I could quote from so many pages of things that struck me, or made me feel emotional. Its message is in the title, that we have been physically apart, but together in important ways. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book begins with the acknowledgement that were busy, with places to be at certain times. An uneasy feeling of a coming storm, of crowds diminishing, of oncoming darkness is conveyed, with deft drawings and so many questions “It’s hard not having all the answers”. The new normal is strange – and fear can make people forget others are feeling scared. The way that such emotions as loneliness is conveyed is so clever, with individuals gazing from their houses and flats. I have two favourite images, of “Heroes amongst us stepped forward” for its subtlety, and the dolls’ house like page “Our homes became dance halls, classrooms, bakeries…” which features dozens of tiny images. People are dancing, playing games, toddlers learning to walk, and a cheeky memory of Freddie Mercury in the video where he is doing the housework. For anyone who has passed houses and flats and wondered what story is behind each door, this page is a joy. I also enjoyed the reminders that nature, the seasons, were and are especially memorable, with the rootedness and predictability being so visible. With plants as hope and trees as the steadfast prop with so many roots, these are wonderful pictures.
I have rarely found a book which sums up a whole range of stories and the sense of togetherness though apart as well as this book, with line drawings rather than words. The brief text is almost a prose poem, pointing out the pictures and summing so much up in so few words. This is a book that at first seems brief, but actually invites careful appreciation and admiration for the little things going on in the pictures, the tiny details that make up a lovely whole. The progress of the novel is very moving. Its message, that there may be storms, but we are stronger together, is an intensely beautiful one as expressed here. This book would make a memorable and thoughtful gift for yourself or any book lover.