This particular book is a record of her travels to Europe over the summer of 2011. She was invited to speak at a Norwegian comics convention in Bergen, and used the opportunity to travel to Sweden to visit a man she’d met several weeks before when he was vacationing in New York City. She also travels to France (Paris, and another city of which I’ve since forgotten the name), visiting a friend who works in a Parisian winery, and where she meets her mother and her mother’s friends, who are vacationing there for a month. Still reeling from a break-up that happened over a year before, and as a freelance artist with youth and freedom on her side, she travels over Europe eating delicious food, having a passionate love affair, just because she can.
Having now read all three travelogues that she has published, it’s clear that An Age of License is where she really nails down the format. Her experiences are split up into chapters covering each city she visits, and are bookended by watercolors she created while on the trip. In several points, she records herself making those paintings in the text itself. The travelogue is a great format for her, because it allows her not only to record the events of her travels, but to process them emotionally as well. The drawings are always accompanied by honest (sometimes painfully so) blurbs of text that give us insight into her state of mind, and how she is experiencing all the things she is seeing.
She also does a great job bringing all the random pieces of the trip into a cohesive whole. Thoughts on her identity, her work, lost loves, new loves all fall neatly under the umbrella of a term she hears in Paris from an American ex-pat living there. Although she has been able to find no one who recognizes the term, he tells her that what she’s doing now the French call living in the ‘age of license,’ which means essentially that you have license to take chances and make mistakes, seeing the world and all it holds so that you can decide what and who you would like to be. (Lucy ultimately concludes he made this up, but nonetheless likes the term enough to use it herself.)
So much of the topics she covers could come off as vain or self-serving, but her style is so forthcoming and raw that it ends up being endlessly fascinating, like a peak inside someone else’s mind and feelings.
If you’re at all into graphic memoirs, definitely pick this up (and all her other books, too).