BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Title: The Fate of Fausto (available here)
Author/Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 2019
Award-winning picture book creator Oliver Jeffers brings a modern day ‘painted fable’ about one man’s greedy desire to possess everything. Readers familiar with Jeffers’ books will know to expect colourful, exquisite illustrations and poignant text and this book continues to be marked by the same distinctive style but has a much more minimalistic feel, with sparse text and expenses of white pages demanding of the reader moments to pause and think about the story’s important message.
The central character Fausto is greedy, tyrannical and self-important as he strolls through the landscape, surveying what he sees and declaring that it all belongs to him. “You are mine,” he tells the flower, a sheep, a tree and a lake. With little resistance his new subjects agree to be his, but Fausto finds the mountain less yielding. Fausto stamps his feet in rage and puts up a fight until the mountain bows down to him and agrees to be owned.
Looking for something larger to conquer, Fausto turns to the vast blue sea, but his happy tyranny soon turns to ‘anger and importance’ as the sea is altogether more resistant. Resorting once more to foot-stamping, Fausto (unable to swim) is quickly swallowed up by the sea’s depths and the natural world returns to its original serenity. The narrative ends showing the natural elements at peace and by reminding the reader that ‘The Fate of Fausto did not matter to them.’
Minimal text and suggestive illustrations work together beautifully, allowing the reader to fill the gaps. With such an important message about human greed and the destructive nature of materialism, the book refuses to allow the reader to sit back without engaging with the point that sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, less is more.
Jeffers uses traditional lithographic printmaking techniques to create the illustrations, setting neon pinks and yellows against earthier shades of greens, browns and blues. Fausto’s body language brilliantly captures his pomposity and aggression, with toddler-like poses and scribbles of rage contrasting with the controlled, textured strokes of the landscape.
There’s something for young and old in this unusual and thought-provoking tale; humour, warmth and the hint of discomfort that arrives when we recognise aspects of our own attitudes in Fausto’s fable and hope for a better fate for ourselves.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us an advanced review copy of this book .