Red Series

Friday, 15 June 2012

Book Review Thursday: Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo by Thiem Pham
Genre: Graphic Novel
Published: December 11, 2012
Source: Got free e-copy from Netgalley
First heard of: Godreads and Netgalley
Purchase: Barnes and Noble, Amazon

Summary from Goodreads: Scott  is a washed-up football player who never made it, and whose girlfriend abandoned him along with his dreams of playing pro football. But things have a way of working out, in this sweet, poetic tale--and a new chapter in Scott's life begins as the old one ends. Offered a position in a Japanese sumo training "stable," Scott abandons his old life, his old name, and even his old hair color, and becomes an aspiring sumo wrestler. And in so doing, he begins to find some kind of center in himself...a center that had seemed lost for good.

Thien Pham, the acclaimed illustrator of Gene Luen Yang's Level Up, returns as the writer and artist of a unique new graphic novel.Highly poetic and structured to echo the slow build and sudden clash of a sumo match, Pham's Sumo is an unusual and beautiful book. It's nearly a contradiction in terms: a delicate, deft, tender tale about...sumo wrestling.

Review: This tale is told in with beautiful art and easy to read conversational prose. Part of this graphic novel is just pictures but it doesn't detract from the great work Thiem Pham has done. This is his first stand alone novel and his experience as an illustrator shows. The graphics is the true star and from orange backgrounds during his sumo training to blue for when he remembers back home in America, everything connects. Scott's decision to leave for Japan is met with both dismay and resent by his closest friend. Dismay that he's leaving and resentment towards the ex-girlfriend who dropped Scott after his pro-football career fell through. It is ironic though that Scott leaves one country's tradition for another. Sumo is very revered in Japan as (American) Football is in America. But of course the novel doesn't hide the fading importance of Sumo to it's own people and that adds to Scott's struggle to 'make it' as well as learning to adopt in a new country where both it's traditions and language is foreign to him. But with the help of his couch and a certain girl who helps him with dishes and decides to go 'fishing' with him. Maybe he will make it. The end of Sumo will leave you both absorbed and touched as learning when to hold on and when to let go takes on a new level of importance and beauty. In a sport of brute strength, tradition and yes love, Sumo will catch both your eyes and your heart.

Rating 4.5 Stars

The reason why Sumo lost half a star is because of the small print in the e-copy version. It slowed down my reading and made me stop more than once out of frustration. The novel's excellent and is worth purchasing but I hope the final e-book verion deals with the tiny print.


  1. Fascinating book idea. Sumo wrestlers are interesting people. Thanks for the review!

  2. how cool! great review! opened my eyes to new possibilities!

  3. Hm, I've kind of started reading graphic novels again, so I'm interested in seeing new ones. Great review. I might try it.


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