Book Review: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival

Ever wonder what it's like to be an immigrant moving to a new place to look for work, to see and experience a whole new world? The Arrival will tell you the story of someone who made this journey.

This beautiful book is designed like a worn out photo album from the past, not sure which past if the photo on the cover is anything of a hint. The book opens to a wall of immigrant photos, just like those you'll see in Ellis Island Museum. Several drawings of immigrant processing, passport pictures, and the "arrival hall" are based on photographs taken at Ellis Island.

The story starts with a man putting a photo of his family carefully into his luggage. It's early morning. His wife and daughter are walking him to the train station. The scene cuts to show the town he's leaving from, one that's inhabited by gigantic black tentacles. At the train station, you can see the sadness in the eyes of her daughter, who only manages to break into a sad smile when her dad pulls a paper crane from under his hat to cheer her up. They hug and bid farewell. The train leaves. The mother and girl then walk back home under the shadows of the tentacles.

You can tell the tremendous amount of research and thought put in the panels. Shaun Tan has put little nuances and details everywhere, enabling readers to fully immerse themselves in the new world feeling the sense of wonder and foreignness as a new immigrant might. When the man is in the arrival hall of the immigration building, he undergoes the health checkups, questioning by officers on the purpose of his visit before he's approved entry.

He finds his job, made new friends and we learn their stories and more of this strange world. The last act ends happily with the man inviting his wife and daughter over. Seeing the joy on their faces as they reunite is so touching. In the last panel, the girl is pointing directions for a newcomer who's lost.

My short review just barely scratches the depth of the book. It's really much deeper.

This is storytelling at its best. Every panel advances the story. No words are used, and none are needed. Shaun Tan seems to have perfected the art of visual narrative with his surrealistic imagery and believable facial expressions. This book is a fascinating eye opener in every literal sense. It's really an enjoyable read and experience.

Most highly recommended.

The Arrival is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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3 Comments

I found your website quite

I found your website quite accidentally... Great work! It is really helpful to be able to see inside the book and have an informed review by an experienced reader. I 'll be back in your website and I will make sure I buy via your link...we need this kind of reviews to keep coming ;-)

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