Goodreads: The Arrival
A man leaves his family to makes his fortune in a new land, encountering strange customs and many marvels. But will he ever be reunited with his wife and daughter? A wordless graphic novel.
Shaun Tan’s wordless graphic novel places readers in the shoes of an immigrant, forcing them to encounter a strange world without the benefit of language to aid understand. The fantastical setting filled with exotic foods and weird animals adds to the sense of disorientation as readers try to guess along with the protagonist how the city works and what steps should be taken. Filled with heart and a little humor, this story celebrates the courage of immigrants and the wonder of travel.
Though Tan’s world is one of fantasy, it draws inspiration from various historical settings, including the Ellis Island, New York City, and the Titanic. These touches makes the story seem particularly relevant, a true depictions of what immigrants to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries may have experienced. The heartache, the fear, and the loneliness all ring true–and Tan needs no words to convey them.
Tan makes sure to depict the other side of immigration, as well, though. His protagonist marvels at the technology around him, revels in his safety, and experiences delight and wonder as he learns new things. He finds help in unexpected places and even makes friends, people who were once like him, awash in a new, bustling city. His story progresses seamlessly all through pictures–the only letters that appear are as indecipherable to readers as they are to the protagonist–so that readers feel they are growing and learning with him.
The Arrival is a sensitive and moving work, one uniquely suited to the graphic novel formal. It is the type of story that stays with a reader long after the pages have been closed.
*Thanks to Jubilare for the recommendation!