Daniel Damiao’s new novel Graphic Nature is historical fiction without a lot of history given. (Though once the heads start dropping, you can guess what period we’re in.) Given the source material, Damiano truly undertook a risk. A main character who beheads people for a living is a somewhat difficult man to empathize with, but Damiano makes us do exactly that. It’s what any great writer SHOULD do actually.
Edmond de Capitoir is a single man living in Paris, France. It’s 81 years after the French Revolution, but public executions are still a popular past time. Chopping heads provides Edmond with a good living as it does for both his brothers who assist him. For Edmond, theirs is simply a trade passed down from their father. Besides, people commit crimes and there must be punishment for it. Don’t want to lose your head? Behave yourself.
Edmond soon longs for family life though. He begins a romance with a young shop girl. He does his best to hide his gruesome vocation from her, but sudden fame from a news article makes this impossible. She finds out. But will she care? Will it matter?
Edmond struggles with her reaction, the pushback from his brothers, the overwhelming annoyance of being a reluctant celebrity, and the yawning disinterest of the gluttonous Minister of Justice, who sees executions as an important form of entertainment. Or something. He has vacations to plan.
Eventually, of course, the essence of what Edmond and his brother do takes it toll on their souls. There’s only so much graphic gore and blood a sane person can take before comprehending the cruel and evil nature of it all. Even executioners bleed.
A short 237-page read, this novel still packs a punch. Deep and heavy on so many levels, hitting so many strong notes. Graphic Nature tells a compelling story with interesting, believable characters while delivering a nuanced message that’s both powerful and important. It also manages to involve the sagacity of life and death, love and loss, the sins of the father, and the indifference of God. You’ll want to read it sitting down.
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