In the crumbling manor Vill’Hervé live Lucie, Fred, and their five daughters, Enid, Hortense, Bettina, Genevieve, and Charlie. The family gets along quite well considering that Lucie and Fred are in fact ghosts, having died in a car crash nearly two years before. They linger on to occasionally reveal themselves to their daughters—Lucie cautioning Enid not to eat too many slices of cake before dinner or Fred helping Charlie to light the cantankerous broiler. But despite these visits, Lucie and Fred only ever reveal themselves to their daughters briefly, unexpectedly, and to each girl as an individual, never as a group. They are no longer of the living world, and it’s up to the Verdelaine sisters to take care of themselves.
Set in France, the plot of siblings orphaned by a car crash and now distantly watched over by a guardian (in this case an Aunt Lucretia), but determined to be self-sufficient, is a familiar one. While never directly derivative, Four Sisters: Enid summons up classic tales of siblings left mostly or entirely to their own devices, from The Enchanted Castle to The Boxcar Children, from I Capture the Castle to Little Women. Despite its classic sensibility, Four Sisters is a modern story, complete with cell phones, teenage gatherings to watch horror movies on Halloween, and a particularly caring and maternal sister who secretly practices Muay Thai.
While the volume’s subtitle, Enid, indicates that it is indeed one installment in a series that will eventually feature more of the Verdelaine sisters, Enid’s volume does not focus entirely on the title character herself. Much of the book is spent rolling out a subplot featuring the Verdelaines’ cousin Dove, who comes to visit and, while Enid does achieve an adventure of her own, the story in fact features each of the sisters to varying degrees.
Four Sisters in its graphic novel form is an adaptation of French novel Quatre Soeurs by Malika Ferdjoukh. Ferdjoukh collaborated with artist Cati Baur to create the graphic novel, and the result is a pleasure to behold. Baur’s art at turns summons up the moody atmosphere of France in the fall and the cozy warmth of being warm inside with family when outside the house is being lashed with rain. Furthermore, whether she’s illustrating a visit from the Verdelaines’ ghostly parents or playfully changing the expression of one character’s Mickey Mouse shirt to reflect the characters’ own emotions, Bauer’s art is able to strike both somber and humorous notes with ease. The full-color illustrations appear to be made with pen and ink and watercolors, though there is no artist’s note to confirm this supposition, and proceed in a mixed format of panels and full-page images. Speech is indicated with speech bubbles, whereas narrative text floats in soft-edged bubbles and is further set off by being written in a different font than the speech.
Recommended for larger graphic novel collections or collections with a more international focus, this book is a must-have, sure to enchant wistful teens and nostalgic adults alike.
Four Sisters, vol. 1: Enid
by Malika Ferdjoukh
Art by Cati Baur
IDW Publishing, 2018