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Maids by Katie Skelly

--Staff Picks


Katie Skelly
Published: 2020
Age Range: 15+
Genre: Graphic Novel
Awards: Katie Skelly is an Eisner Award-nominated artist

On the first page of Maids, a graphic novel by Katie Skelly, a young woman picks a human eyeball off the floor and cautiously pokes at it with her index finger. As she is about to prod the pupil of the disembodied ocular sphere, Skelly shifts the frame to show the same young woman ringing a black-and-white doorbell. That is the first of multiple cleverly cinematic transitions, not unlike Sophia Coppolla would use if she were to direct a movie based on this story. 

Maids is based on the true story of Christine and Lea Papin, two sisters employed as maids, who killed their employers, the Lancelins, in the 1930s. Skelly’s style is spare and tightly focused, illustrating the nuances of the Lancelin household in a remarkably short, but rich, tome. The Lancelin house is filled with monochromatic grays and light pastels. Splashes of red appear when the girls are able to break free from the constrictive bonds their social class has placed upon them — or when their rage flares with murderous intent.

According to Wikipedia, French scholars saw the Papin murders as symbolic of the class struggle in France. Skelly is definitely sympathetic to the Papin sisters, who kill their employers so that they can have more time with one another. This novel is dedicated to the author’s own sister. To read Maids, click here.