The Trial of Roger Casement

Fionnuala Doran's first graphic novel, The Trial of Roger Casement, gives the historical account of a British diplomat, humanitarian and Irish Nationalist. Roger Casement (1864-1916) was an activist in Africa and South America, which earned him fame and knighthood before he was eventually stripped of the title and put on trial for treason.

Writer and illustrator Fionnuala Doran tosses readers into the heart of Casement's world, intimately following him through his friendships, his relationships, his encounters. Within the first three pages, he slips from a boat and almost drowns, which he deems a "metaphor for my whole life." That observation proceeds to haunt the rest of the story. Doran, though, is careful in her treatment of her subject. For example, she sensitively depicts Casement's love life as a gay man in a country where homosexuality was illegal. As a result, sadness tinges each page.

At the end, Doran includes a timeline to highlight the story's main events. The illustrations throughout are quite simple, every so often accented with green and orange backgrounds, and yet they convey the world beyond the panels beautifully. Readers can see the Casement's world and its landmarks, hear the voices and fill in the rest, as they take in such a tumultuous time in British history.

Doran's art style is bolstered by occasionally heavy prose, which might attract readers who may not habitually explore graphic novels. All in all, The Trial of Roger Casement is perfect for readers interested in Irish history and Casement's place in it. --Carol H. Hood, writer, graphic novelist, social commentator

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