Here’s a book and an author that deserve to be far better known outside of their native Taiwan. Jimmy Liao has been producing lavishly illustrated picture books since the late nineties selling over five million copies worldwide. For Western readers, think of Brian Selznick’s books, but coloured in and without all that annoying text to get in the way.
Rainbow of Time is the latest of his hard to categorize stories to be published in English. Is it a picture book or a comic? For children or adults? In truth it’s a universal story which will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the human condition, regardless of their age or bias towards a particular reading format.
The story has the quality of a vivid dream, creating a similar sensation to watching a Hayao Miyazaki movie for the first time. Film runs through this story, which follows a young cinéaste from the death of her mother through to becoming a mother herself.
Each stage of her life is given extra resonance by the films she chooses to escape into, and which then bleed out into the real world. At times they are a comfort at others they add to the dull grief that hangs over her life.
Liao lays a heavily melancholic atmosphere over an entirely introverted world – but somehow it is never depressing. It wallows in nostalgia for the past and revels in the enrichment that great movies can bring.
Rainbow of Time is a perfect book to wrap up with under a warm blanket as autumn sets in. It’s suffused with the rich oranges, yellows and chilly blues of the season, occasional splashes of technicolour bursting through, reminders of a joyful life lost and an optimistic future that awaits.
The Rainbow of Time by Jimmy Liao (and translated by Xinlin Wang and Andrea Lingenfelter) is published in December 2015 by Balestier Press.