Book Review: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic par Alison Bechdel: Fine Hardcover ...

Title: Fun Home- A Family Tragicomic

Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir

Number of Pages: 240

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes




Even though it’s obvious to me that Alison Bechdel has a lot of talent, I just didn’t fall in love with this book like most people seemed to. It might have partially been because I was having a really bad day when I read it and that these family dysfunction stories can be, well, a little on the emotionally rough side. Some of it was fascinating, while some of it simply seemed to be a little on the self-indulgent side. I might read it again in a few years and love it. I don’t know.


Alison Bechdel grew up in a crazy family. Her mom was cold and unpredictable, but her father really took the cake as far as issues were concerned. He was a closeted homosexual, which in of itself doesn’t make him a bad person except he was also just a total asshole. He controlled everything in the family’s home, recoiled from affection when it came to his kids but he did like to try to procure sexual encounters with teenage boys in the community.


His side of the family owned a lucrative funeral parlor and Alison became familiar with the more bizarre and disturbing side of things very early in life. She also slowly became aware that she was a lesbian, and her sexual awakening and painful coming of age were upstaged by her parents’ long-standing drama, including her father’s arrest for indecent sexual behavior and his endless obsession with beautifying the house.


I would say that Fun Home was a little bit longer than most graphic novels I’ve read, it actually took me a while to finish it. The illustrations are striking and full of detail, and she makes the people in it really come to life. I liked the first part of the book best where it was focusing on her childhood and tumultuous teen years, but near the end it started to get really boring. She got pretty fixated on talking about literature for a while there, which is fine except it began to feel forced.


At first she talked about how she didn’t like James Joyce in her college English course (maybe because she was too focused on lesbian-themed literature at the time) but then she turns around and starts pontificating about Ulysses and how it connected in different ways to her dad’s life. First of all, her dad was an asshole, I don’t care how much James Joyce’s work supposedly moved him on a deep spiritual level (I tend to assume people who say Ulysses is their all-time favorite book are lying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case here too.)


Secondly, I’ve never read Joyce and it just seemed beside the point to me, but she kept going on about it. I felt like she wanted to show off how many books she’d read, so at the end I was assailed by a lot of literary name-dropping. The story lost immediacy and slowed to a crawl, and I was relieved when it was over. Alison Bechdel has had a fascinating life and she’s known a lot of really interesting people (some of which are a little too interesting, but are great for the purposes of storytelling) but I feel like some parts here and there could have been trimmed for the sake of narrative flow.

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