Lillian the Legend
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This graphic novel is a fascinating historical drama about a pioneering Russian immigrant in the 1920s. Lillian Alling gets off the boat at Ellis Island then works as a seamstress in the factories of New York. Homesick and determined she sets out on an epic journey to get back to Russia with nothing but an iron bar for protection. She walks the Telegraph Trail to Dawson City, Yukon, and eventually floats down the Yukon River to the Bering Sea where her fate becomes shrouded in mystery. Byrne’s historical narrative in comics form can be compared to David Collier or Chester Brown’s Louis Riel. She renders Alling’s journey in meticulous inks, from sweeping landscapes to the tiniest detail, without missing a beat. Also included in this artist’s first book are reproductions of her mini-books featuring other Northern tall tales and stories about various odd jobs.
The story of Lillian Alling has recently been chronicled in fiction by Amy Bloom (Away) and in non-fiction by Cassandra Pybus (The Woman Who Walked to Russia: A Writer’s Search for a Lost Legend) and will be featured as part of the Vancouver Opera’s 2010 season.