Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer – Trina Robbins

It would have been practically impossible to write one of my usual reviews on this wonderful graphic novel from Trina Robbins because it is so short.
I had drawn and coloured in (within the lines, too!) a sprawling and epic graphic review of this novel and it was spectacular but just as I was about to scan in my masterpiece onto my computer…. It, um, broke. *cough*
So yeah, you’ll have to make do with this bog-standard review.
This graphic novel follows the story of Lily Renee Wilhelm, an Austrian girl who was sixteen when the Nazis forced her family to uproot and move to Vienna. After witnessing the horrifying and brutal acts that took place in this period (Especially the mention of Kristallnacht, an event that I learnt about in my history GCSE but never read any books that depicted it!), Lily is sent to England in a short-lived scheme set up by Germany to protect the children from the inevitable war.
Before I started this book I knew nothing about Lily’s life and I found her story of surviving against the odds to become a hugely successful comic book illustrator fascinating. But I couldn’t help but feel like this book was a ridiculously fast-paced and rushed in some parts.
I would have loved to have read more about Lily’s time in England and for Ms Robbins to have explored the complex feelings that the British undoubtedly felt towards Lily (along with the other Austrian/German children who were evacuated) while their cities were being ravaged by German bombers. Also, I think the story would have benefitted from a bit more detail on what happened to Lily when she landed on America and how she became to be a noted illustrator. There were a lot of gaps that could have been filled in by just adding a few more pages, just to clear things up and make the transitions feel less hurried as they did.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and the aesthetics of this book did not disappoint me. It is blatant that Ms Robbins is a master illustrator and knows exactly what she is doing when it comes to creating affective and beautiful drawings. The vivid and lavish colours of the illustrations really complimented Lily’s fascinating story and the tragic history of the period.
After a few hours snooping on the Internet, I feel it is well worth researching the life of Lily Renee Philips. Her life is a fascinating and remarkable story and one that I feel should be much more widely known about.

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