Sitting down to review these books I was faced with the question of “how do you review the story of someone’s life?” The answer is quite simple… you don’t. It would be disrespectful of me to even try to, yet the point of a review is to offer a reason to either spend your money on the subject or to pass. The reality is that I can’t even begin to recap the emotional journey that I was taken on while reading all three of these books, but yet I must. I can’t just tell you, “They’re amazing read it for yourself” because that would be lazy and pointless. With Only Five Plums is a way of saying “with only the shirts on our back” since I think that’s an important thing to point out. I didn’t know that going into the series and had I, I might have picked the book up sooner to read. The story that is broken up into three books is about the life of Anna Nesporova and the small Czech town of Lidice. Each of the books acts as a day of interviewing between author Terry Eisele and Anna.
The most straight forward recap I can give is that Anna narrates her life during World War II in which Germany invaded the Czech nation. It's very much Anna’s story, but through her narration we learn that it is also the story of Lidice a town that should never be forgotten.
The first book talks about life in Lidice before the Germans and then after their invasion and the events that would eventually befall the town. The second book is about Anna’s life in a Nazi concentration camp and details that will break your heart. The third book that end caps the story explains the other moving pieces that were happening to Lidice during Anna’s time away and the ultimate fate the town suffered. I’m being brief because there is no way that I can do this story justice with my recap and so I will not insult Anna’s story or the work of the creative team by doing so.
Terry Eisele does a wonderful job of recreating Anna’s tale. At first it seems strange that such a journey would be broken up into three books, but it’s actually incredibly effective. Sure it gives the story a natural three act progression, but even more it divides the different times in Anna’s life so that they don’t blur together. When Anna becomes so emotional that she must stop talking and end for the day, it’s something that weighs on your heart while reading it as well. Anna tells her story in a very natural progression that while presenting her journey explains things that came out after the war during the Nuremberg trials and solidifies the facts that she presents. It solidifies the things she knows that should wasn’t present for.
Illustrator Jonathon Riddle is faced with the terrible task of bringing Anna’s story to life. He presents the visuals of the story in a way that is familiar for comic readers, but never sticks to a strict structure of “x” amount of panels on the page. Instead the pages act as full-page illustrations and often have overlapping themes on the page. Each page is a work of art all on its own. His art work brings to life the emotions that Anna’s story and Eisele’s structure present in words. What’s more incredible about the art work is that while it doesn’t try to show you panel by panel what Anna is talking about, it does manage to be so fluid and detailed that your mind fills in the gaps. Now while that’s an incredible thing for an artist to manage you must remember the content of the story and the imagery that you’ll be seeing, but if you can manage then you’ll see history moving before your eyes.
This is definitely a graphic novel and not a comic book. Usually I find there to be no difference between the two, but when you consider the content of this story I know that it will never appeal to the average superhero reader. This is probably for the best since they would fail to grasp the importance of its existence, but is also incredibly sad for the very same reason.
As for myself I am not what you would call an “average” comic reader and while I couldn’t single out any one group or niche of reader to recommend this to; I can say that if you follow my reviews to any degree and find yourself latching on to the same material, that it’s likely that you’ll enjoy this story. Personally I was moved to tears on more than one occasion because Anna's story was so powerful and moving. Frankly, I think it’s one of the most important stories to ever be told in comics and will share it for years to come.
Writer: Terry Eisele Artist: Jonathon Riddle Cover Artist: John Novak Price: $9.00 Each Website