Review of CONDOLADY by Elisabeth Belliveau

CONDOLADY
By Elisabeth Belliveau
Conundrum Press
112 pages, $10

Elisabeth Belliveau’s CONDOLADY is a pocket-sized graphic story that follows her life of social distancing for two years in a 680 square foot condo in Edmonton. Belliveau uses soft grey-scale hues to record everyday experiences, her journey with tenure review and pregnancy, and how life quietly continues in a pandemic, even while everything elsewhere seems to be at a stand-still.

“Two quiet years of full stress” is how the comic begins. Belliveau moved to Edmonton (the ‘City of Champions’, she mentions) in 2017, and bought the one-bedroom condo in 2019. The condo is a prominent setting for the comic: Belliveau is an artist and a lecturer, and as classes move online, she works (Zoom), socializes (FaceTime), exercises (YouTube), and shops (Instacart) entirely from home. The days bleed into each other, indistinguishable except from rare occasions of good and bad news.

Large sections of the book are drawn through Belliveau’s lens, and barring occasional panels with a third-party perspective, we rarely see our narrator. The reader sees from her point of view instead—it is as if the reader is peering out from Belliveau’s eyes, an invisible witness to her life. The pages that follow feature a jumble of images, some sequitur, some not: freshly baked bread, a rare picnic, a fitness tracker (walking + running distance = 0, steps = 13). The result is a pandemic diary that readers might find familiar, not only in its content but its progression: earlier activities are, despite all-consuming pandemic dread, relatively light-hearted—Belliveau bakes bread, adopts a cat, goes on neighbourhood walks. But as the monotony of the pandemic continues, the diary changes into something else; eventually the omission of habits become significant as well. Belliveau likely continues baking bread and shopping online, but these things are no longer novel, and they disappear from sight, replaced with pages full of computer screens. “Two years nonstop online meetings and I cannot remember what any of them were about,” Belliveau writes, as she moves the reader from the physical to the virtual.

Standing pocket-sized at 10.5 x 16cm, CONDOLADY‘s small frame also mirrors the feeling of both proximity and confinement. Like Belliveau, the reader is stuck within a small frame, limited in their ability to move freely. Overall, CONDOLADY offers a gentle, if too-familiar rendition of 2020–22, giving readers a chance to remember the pandemic as exhausting and stressful, but nonetheless peppered with small, odd moments of beauty and hope.

—Shristi Uprety

Shristi Uprety (she/her) is a Nepali writer and editor, currently living and working in Vancouver. She has an MFA from UBC, and she is the managing editor at ROOM.

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