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Night At the Belfry by Xavier Saxon

Overall Rating:

  • Quality Rating: 4 Coffees – This drink, I like it. Another, please!
  • Popularity Rating: 2P – If you like boxing sports dramas and poignant stories, this might be the book for you.

Bibliographic Information:

  • Title: Night At the Belfry
  • Author
    • Xavier Saxon (Art and Story)
    • Allison O’Toole (Editor)
    • Cindy Leong (Design)
  • Genre: Graphic Novel
  • Subgenre(s):
    • Contemporary
    • Sports Drama
    • Boxing
  • Pages: 221
  • Publisher: Self-published (Xavier Saxon); ComiXology Original
  • Publication Date: 18 October 2022
  • Format(s) Available:
    • Kindle Unlimited
    • ComiXology
  • Available at: Amazon (Kindle Unlimited x ComiXology)
  • Price(s):
    • Kindle Unlimited x ComiXology: $0.00
    • Kindle: $ 6.99
Xavier Saxon – Oct 2022 [YouTube Video/Podcast video] (True North Country Comics Videos, 19 October 2022)

Reader’s Annotation:

An elderly man decides he wants to take control of his life and sets out to relive his boxing glory and die in the process.

Summary:

At the age of 74, James feels washed up and useless. After a brief confrontation with a thief on the bus, James feels as though he needs to take control of his life and take care of himself. Having missed out on the beginnings a almost promising boxing career thirty years prior, James sets out to hire his old trainer Maurice so he can get into shape; however, there is more to James’ desire to train and get in shape than just reliving the good old days: he wants to take control of his life as well as his death. Will James be able to relive his glory days and finally take control of his life, or will be get more than he bargained for in the process?


My Evaluation:

This was not what I was expecting at all from a graphic novel, and perhaps that is a good thing. Having worked in a memory care community, I have met all sorts of people- including boxers. One of the worst things to see is people losing who they are as well as deteriorating and not being able to do things they normally love, only to have people treat them differently. While the main character James is not suffering from dementia, he is getting older and, after a knock to the head, starts to blacking out and also dealing with blurring vision. We see a man who is losing the will to live and carry on. So he opts to do something he loves and die in the process to have some semblance of control.

I definitely got Rocky Balboa vibes as well as a dash of Million Dollar Baby, as the main character feels useless and wants to do something glorious and


Links for Author Website and Interviews:

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com


Appeal Factors (Spoilers):

  • Pacing: The story enters into a seemingly boring day for James as he rides the bus or train home. We don’t know where he was coming from, or who the young man who accosts him is. However, we soon are given a glimpse into James’s mind and what his life was like prior- how he wants to stand up for himself and defy people’s expectations. However, it is this moment that sets the story in motion. The story is told through primary use of artwork, with dialogue and flashbacks or memories helping to set the tone and emotional meat of the story.
  • Frame: The background information is minimal in the beginning, though we get flashbacks and memories through James as he continues to train with Maurice and we learn that he was a single parent, left boxing to work and raise his daughter/ We are expected to take things as things come or as the author and the characters reveal what’s happening.
  • Storyline: The author wants us to take a serious look at life, motivations, and the people in our lives. While it is an action- being robbed and then later knocked out by the robber -that sets things in motion, we can see from James’s memories that he has a life unlived and he wants to catch some of that before he cannot do it anymore.
  • Characterization: While James is the main focus, he is surrounded by people who with care for him on a personal (Emily his daughter, Ethan his caregiver) or professional level (Maurice and his Doctor). While we know that Emily cares deeply for her father, we do not see much interaction between James and her unless she’s arriving or leaving from work, at the doctor’s office, or having an argument with her father. The Thief also is only seen twice and never seen again while Ethan and Maurice also have minimal character development as well.
  • Format: A piece of fiction, this graphic novel can be read within one sitting and contains a series of panels as well as some fully illustrated pages.
  • Interplay of Text and Art: Much like in life, the author uses the artwork to tell the story, set the mood. The lack of dialogue in some panels sets up the tension, the hurt, and even the joy the characters are feeling. The dialogue helps push the story forward, but it is the artwork that sets the pace and tells the story the most, exposing the emotional and psychological parts fo the main character and his friends and family.
  • The Artwork: Saxon went for a more realistic approach with his story, crafting not only a world but characters that are easily recognizable- not falling into exaggeration or the fantastical One of the interesting things about this graphic novel is the use of the color purple and blue. Purple often depicts royalty, strength, and transformation. At night and early in the morning, James leaves home and goes out to to train or fight, whereas when he is at home or the doctor, things are sometimes covered in blue- which is meant to signify inspiration, freedom, and imagination, things that James has but he wants more. It is only when he remembers the past or memories within his daughter that things are brighter, more yellow. It is significant then that at not the end of the story, he sits- defeated and hurt, with his daughter at his side, watching the sunrise over the belfry that the colors are brighter, more warm.
  • The Culture: Growing old and losing not only the will to live but also being coddled and treated differently is a universal topic that can span cultures. Because the author is from Canada, this story no doubt takes place in North America.
  • Other elements: Thought there is no age rating listed with this graphic novel, this would not doubt be better suited for older readers, considering the sport of boxing can be violent as well as the elder abuse and topics of euthanasia.

Other Information:

  • Though the graphic novel feels partially inspired by the Rocky movie franchise, the author was inspired by the visual image of a boxing match taking place in a church belfry tower
  • This is the author’s first published graphic novel
  • Though mostly interested in fantasy and genre-related comics, the author wrote this as an effort of self-discipline to “complete something”


Similar Titles and Authors:


Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere Reviews:


Awards and Booklists:

  • Book Lists: N/A
  • Awards: N/A


Booktalking Approach:

So you are a fan of sport’s dramas, huh? What type of sports are you into- soccer, water polo, baseball? Boxing, eh? Interesting. I don’t suppose you are a fan of the Rocky and Creed franchises at all? Just a lucky guess. Sadly, I don’t have a lot of fictional books featuring boxers, but I may have a few graphic novels. I suggest you check out Night At the Belfry by Xavier Saxon- just came out and is availble to borrow through the Overdrive app as an eBook. It tells the unconventional story of an elderly man whose boxing career fell short and, in an effort to take control of his life, decides to hire his trainer and begin boxing again to feel more alive. It is a very poignant and touching story. Well-worth the read.


Book Discussion Questions:

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com
  • When you see the cover, what are your initial thoughts? How does the cover make you feel?
  • The title seems to be a clever take on the phrase, “bats in the belfry” and sundowning- showing erratic and crazy behavior and lashing out, often a sign of dementia. James’ mission- death match in the nearby church belfry -is a strange one. Is he really crazy, beginning to experience dementia, or is there something more? Explain.
  • When we first meet the main character James, he is accosted by a young man who steals his wallet- yet envisions taking the young man down. It provides him a moment of peace and amusement. However, when he sees the young man again, his plan does not go so well. Does this moment set things in motion? Why or why not?
  • What do we think of James when we first meet him? How does he change throughout the story? Is he relatable?
  • Thinking that her father needs help and care, she hires Ethan to watch over James. If you were in James’ shoes, would you have reacted or handled the situation better?
  • When James meets Maurice again, he is skeptical about training James or even finding him a match- let alone James’ proposal of a literal death match? Besides the money, what made him decide to take on James?
  • The daughter Emily has spent her life being taken care of by her father and now the roles are reversed. Does James feel resentment towards his daughter or just experiences frustration with being older and not as able bodied? Explain.
  • A church often symbolizes peace and tranquility. What is the significance of the church in this story? What does the belfry signify for James?
  • In the end, James decides not to die by death match, losing the match and his money, but is able to share a moment of peace with his daughter. As his life flashes before his eyes, he sees the people around him- including his daughter and Ethan. What made James change his mind at the last minute?

Reasons for Inclusion:

I was randomly looking for something and this showed up as a recommendation for me. I was not sure what to expect but I think it is unique and something not seen in many graphic novels. While there are younger characters, the main focus is on the older characters that someone might not notice or notices for the wrong reasons- an easy target, someone feeble, not long for this world, etc. Reading it I was struck by the similarities of the Rocky movies and the story unfolding of a man who gave up something he wanted for something he loved and wanted even more: his daughter. It was touching, poignant, and well written.

Clues for the Future:

  • Xavier Saxon
  • Boxing
  • Rocky Balboa
  • Creed
  • Comeback-kid
  • Elder abuse
  • Elderly characters
  • Father-daughter relationships

Published by Reader's Paradise

Welcome to My Blog. For all things book related, please check out my sites below, covering a variety of topics: • Reader's Advisory for Adults • Young Adult Materials • Banned Authors: P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast

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