It’s a poignant, understated book that avoids overexplaining (except bits on machinery and how paper is made), allowing the reader to linger in the gaps across vignettes. Some of these quiet episodes are quite lovely, especially those limned at the edges with mourning ... The break room scenes, in which the young Delisle is silent, often center on sex (in surprising ways; I felt jolted out of a reverie by their frank, explicit content) and are reported with a keen ear. Factory Summers is the key to Delisle’s nonfiction oeuvre: It shows his growing curiosity, in those formative years, both about how things function structurally and about people—and how he learned to listen to them. Its light touch makes a big impact.
But even in this comic, the author appears before us in the guise we now know so well—a baffled outsider trying, and often failing, to navigate a culture that isn’t his own ... But the book isn’t really about social class so much as it is about men and their agonising inability to talk to one another ... It’s this plangent undertow that makes Factory Summers worth your time. We all know about summer jobs. Many of us have experienced the borderline bullying that comes with a certain kind of envy and fear. But the emotionally silent world of men is more difficult territory to reach and it 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.
Delisle remembers the particulars of the work he did, even decades removed, but really shines in depicting the emotional beats of a first job as a teenager, the exaggerated nervousness about making mistakes, the intrigues of having peer relationships with coworkers who, unlike your schoolmates, are not your age nor on a career path of any sort ... His handful of encounters with his father are insightful and moving; early on, his cartoonist eye moves away from his dad’s talking mouth and zeroes in on his footwear—sandals with socks, the universal symbol of filial embarrassment ... Delisle’s drawing style might be described as a classical approach to contemporary cartooning, but he occasionally flourishes us with gorgeous renditions of the factory and its architecture. Most intriguing, though, is his experiment in color, which he’s done in other books ... This book moved me.
This book is relatable from its foundation up due to its subject matter ... It’s a very specific book, loaded with far more life details than not only the average graphic novel, but of any graphic novel from recent memory (at least to my mind). There are procedural pages that delve deeply into the process of the work Guy is doing here, into pushing pulp away while averting safety hazards. There are also characters whose lone surface significance to the plot is to enrichen the fabric of everyday life. This all heightens the experience, though ... a graphic novel that finds that rarified air of going so deep into the details that it transcends, becoming universal ... his cartooning style lends itself well to complex projection, to seeing yourself in the pages and in the people, to affixing these visuals in your own mind's eye. It all adds up to one of the most engaging graphic novels of the year, a patient and melancholic look back at a formative—if outwardly unremarkable—time in many readers’ lives.
Deslise's art is simple and refined ... his linework seems more diagrammatical and economical, but still elegant in its narrative unfolding. He provides details of the machinery within the paper mill, and he deftly conveys body language of its inhabitants, but there's not a page or a panel that you would likely see pulled out of context as a work of beauty. Within the larger framework of the graphic novel, his panels and pages are exactly what's needed ... Delisle captures that fear and exhilaration and oppressive torment of the job ... The new languages and social interactions that emerge are the most interesting parts of the comic, besides the unrelenting horror of possible death-by-machine ... Delisle presents all of this dispassionately, but artfully so. It feels like we are present in these brief social interactions, experiencing their fleeting nature, knowing that each moment is dotted with passersby in story that doesn’t really concern anyone outside the author ... He’s led us to a satisfying ending with grace and charm, but there’s more to this book than just his personal journey. In his subtle, matter-of-fact way, Delisle has shown us that art and story can be an escape, for him and for us, not just as a temporary means of withdrawal from reality but as a means of survival.
... a perceptive gaze into his younger self ... The cast of characters at this all-male workplace...will be instantly relatable to anyone who grew up in working-class or factory circles ... Delisle has a simplified drawing style, put to great effect here. Each character is distinct, and the factory is rendered so clearly it will remain in the reader’s mind long after they’ve set the comic aside. With smart use of a limited color palette, Factory Summers provides a personal history right alongside important lessons on work, climate, how we learn to navigate the world as a young adult, and, in the end, on the nature of family.
Delisle opens this perceptive memoir observing himself at age 16, working summers at a Quebec City paper mill ...He also regularly overhears instances of sexism, misogyny, and homophobia in his coworkers’ conversations, which contrasts with Delisle’s occasionally naive but sincere efforts at maintaining respectful relationships with others. His cartoony and simple yet textured drawings capture the characters with insight and gentle humor, as well as terrifying close calls with dangerous machinery.