Factory Summers

by Guy Delisle

Other authorsHelge Dascher (Translator), Rob Aspinall (Translator)
Hardcover, 2021




Drawn and Quarterly (2021), 156 pages


"For three summers beginning when he was 16, cartoonist Guy Delisle worked at a pulp and paper factory in Quebec City. Factory Summers chronicles the daily rhythms of life in the mill, and the twelve-hour shifts he spent in a hot, noisy building filled with arcane machinery. Delisle takes his noted outsider perspective and applies it domestically, this time as a boy amongst men through the universal rite of passage of the summer job. Even as a teenager, Delisle's keen eye for hypocrisy highlights the tensions of class and the rampant sexism an all-male workplace permits... Guy and his dad aren't close, and Guy's witnessing of the workplace politics and toxic masculinity leaves him reconciling whether the job was the reason for his dad's unhappiness. On his days off, Guy found refuge in art, a world far beyond the factory floor. Delisle shows himself rediscovering comics at the public library, and preparing for animation school--only to be told on the first day, 'There are no jobs in animation.' Eager to pursue a job he enjoys and to avoid a career of unhappiness, Guy throws caution to the wind."--… (more)

Media reviews

[...] the emotionally silent world of men [...] finds its perfect expression here in Delisle’s effortless concision: so much paralysing gaucheness in a beer belly, a pair of bandy legs, a head bent over a homemade sandwich; so much sadness in a single glance.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LibrarianRyan
I am not usually a fan of books that are character studies, but this one is and I was thoroughly intrigued. We follow the author/artist as he works summer in the paper mill between studying to be an artist. The lesson on how paper mills work was really cool, but following Guy as he wades through
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life as the young person figuring out what it’s all about is compelling. Try not turning the pages one you start. The entire book is black and white with spots of a yellow or orange color and it creates a perfect setting for this story. This book was a translation so it marks off some reading challenges for me which is good.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
Delisle delivers a matter of fact a memoir of his summer job working at a pulp and paper mill in Quebec City. He contrasts his fine arts student self with the blue-collar crowd around him and vaguely makes a point about his detached relationship with his father, but it's mostly a string of
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day-to-day anecdotes. Having spent my summers milking cows between semesters of college, I found it pretty relatable even if it isn't 100 percent engaging at all times.
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LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Straddles the blue collar paper mill and white collar animation school of the author's past. Excellent artwork and uncomplicated specificity with an observational style familiar from his travelogues.
LibraryThing member clrichm
The nature of the work—a memoir—meant that any unanswered questions the narrator had we’re going to remain unanswered for the reader, and I get that, but I still found myself feeling at a loss wondering about them. Perhaps I was meant to. I wish I’d gotten more of a look into what the
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author was feeling, but more attention went toward the day to day workings of the factory, leaving me with the sense that his emotions were almost muffled.
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LibraryThing member Lucky-Loki
A chronicle of Delisle's summers working on the floor of the factory his estranged dad spent his life at, and told with typical excellence. The mild observational humour (and, at times, tragedy) and Delisle's not unrelated ability to make seemingly any mundane anecdote or life experience memorable
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and engaging carried me away to a teenager's experience straddling a white collar education with a blue collar summer job in 1980s Québec. If you've read and enjoyed his travelogues, "Factory Summers" (or "Chronicles of Youth", as my very limited French understands the original title) very much reads like a stylistic and thematic prequel, an unexpected first chapter in a fractured autobiographical series. It doesn't have the outsider's perspective on a foreign culture, true, but the vibe of the fish out of water trying to keep his head down and fit in, that's very much the same. Which might perhaps be a point in its own right.

Binding the whole narrative together is Delisle's relationship (or lack thereof) with his father, a figure who, in Delisle's presentation, seems airily tragic, a man quietly longing for connection with his son and with no notion of how to create it. Or, perhaps, the reader is simply projecting it. The mystery of that is part of the tenderly mundane moments with him in the story, and provides an emotional bookend -- and with a surprising level of closure to the whole story, in its own way.

Without a backdrop of war or dictatorship, it's probably not going to blow you away like some of Delisle's earlier works, but 'Factory Summers' is warmly recommended, and well worth the read.
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Original language

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