The mention of changing business practices via Eaton’s (the movement away from catalogue order and department stores to in-person shopping and boutique retail models) is relevant because business at Clyde Fans began to deteriorate with the greater availability of air-conditioning technology.
But the theme of decay also plays out on the personal level, in Abe’s inability to establish relationships outside of the family and in the boys’ mother’s cognitive decline, into dementia.
One pivotal scene in 1957 presents Simon in the Bluebird, a diner in Dominion where he orders grilled cheese with potato salad and a coffee for dinner. There, he overhears two older women, talking about the weather, until one of them reminisces about her husband, Freddy, stopping to change a flat tire and leaving the woman and her friend, Esther, to wander off into the bush where they stumbled on the most enchanted place.
“I doubt I’d be able to find it again even if I tried,” she laments. (Her “clearing in the bush” description could be a subtle reference to the classic Susanna Moodie volume, for another jolt of Canadiana.)
The waitress is watching the clock, Simon is chewing his sandwich, and the other woman at the table shares a similar story. OOH, this is simply another instance of how we recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary; OTOH, this scene replays later in the volumes and has a peculiar importance all its own.
The panels are contained and exact (increasingly so in the comics of recent years) and the palette is consistent throughout, only occasionally a full-page image for scene-setting (interiors, cityscapes, landscapes) or emphasis (often black with a single phrase or face).
The style is reminiscent of The New Yorker’s cover art in the 1930s and 1940s (the artist’s work has graced three issues of The New Yorker) and the hardcover compilation is complete with a window cut into the cover on the front and, in the back, a photograph of the author pictured in front of the real Clyde Fans storefront.
But none of that looks as real as this story feels.