59-year-old Ulysses, a removal man recently made redundant is finding his world directionless; his routine now consists of trying desperately to find something to occupy the long hours that stretch out in front of him every day. Mediterranea is 62 and a former model who now runs her mother’s cheese-making shop after her recent death. She, too, finds herself alone in her later years. These two existences come together when the couple meet by chance, and slowly and inextricably their lives intertwine.
As I read Blossoms in Autumn, a collaboration between the Belgian writer Zidrou and the Dutch artist Aimée de Jongh, I thought more than once that it was not quite to my taste. I found the dialogue a little cheesy; I hate the fact that the arc of its plot suggests a woman can consider her life a failure if she has not had children. In the end, though, these things didn’t really matter. Sometimes, a book pierces your heart like an arrow in spite of its faults and Blossoms in Autumn was, in my case, one of these. The story of an older couple who fall suddenly and unexpectedly in love, it has a rare sweetness, a glorious innocence that is unusual even in the world of comics ... I won’t give away the book’s improbable and (to me) somewhat infuriating ending. But Zidrou and de Jongh have caught something both beautiful and true.
While there are a couple of weakly imagined story points, it’s a sweet, skillfully rendered piece ... It is refreshing to see the sexuality of older adults depicted in such a naturalistic, positive fashion ... A couple of points in the story did stick in my craw. There's a sequence that comes dangerously close to the iteration of the old 'kind-hearted prostitute is secretly in in love with her customer' trope that has always felt false (and even slightly offensive). There's also use of the dead child/spouse device ... Luckily, Zidrou has imbued Ulysses with enough depth that the cliché is mostly transcended, but I was still a little disappointed to see it here ... At its best, Blossoms in Autumn captures the poetry of human relationships along with the belief that life might hold a few surprises in store, should we allow ourselves to welcome them.
Though the gaze within the story is [de Jongh's] own, and the artistic hand outside the story is female too, I still felt a primarily male presence controlling the two-page spread ... While I could question Zidrou's grasp of female biology, his understanding of female experience is more concerning ... The age and power differences in Ulysses and his partner's professional relationship also echo the relationship between the two authors. If this graphic novel followed the creative process of most two-author comics, the project originated with Zidrou, who penned a complete script before handing it to the 31-year-old Jongh to illustrate. If so, the characters' questionable charms and implausibilities trace back to Zidrou. He is the luihim, controlling the narrative and its unfortunate notions of gender. So while there's much to admire in Blossoms in Autumn, I'm looking forward to only one of its authors' future books.