Note: Review copy supplied by Seven Seas Entertainment
Title: Goodbye, My Rose Garden
Author/Artists: Dr. Pepperco
Genre: Yuri, Historical
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Early in the twentieth century, Hanako journeys to England to follow her dream of becoming a novelist. When things don’t work out quite as she planned, she finds employment as a personal maid to noblewoman Alice Douglas, who makes a most unusual request: she begs Hanako to kill her! As Hanako tries to figure out why her mistress would make such a shocking plea, their relationship grows into something far deeper.
Starting with aesthetics, Dr. Pepperco has done a good job here. Both the scenery and the fashions feel authentic for 1900 England, and I particularly liked the attention to detail on the clothing when it came to folds and fabrics. Meanwhile, the characters fit well within the setting. The males look like the men of the time, and the same can be said of the women.
What I found most interesting in that regard were the eye shapes. Hanako has a very standard large-eyed look like you commonly see in teenage girls in manga. This is clearly done to give her an air of innocence, as she is described as being an adult that looks young. This is further shown when we meet Lady Alice’s little sister Margaret who also has larger eyes. Meanwhile, Lady Alice herself and the other adults have much smaller eyes. It actually makes them look a little more cynical.
While decent, it’s not the art that drew me in here though. The story itself is really quite interesting, and deals with human rights in the 1900’s very well on multiple levels. Obviously, being a yuri title, we get some focus on the public view of LGBTQ people in the era. The book is set shortly after Oscar Wilde’s death, and this is directly referenced, and we also see how rumours of Lady Alice being a lesbian are spoken in hushed tones. That Alice shares a surname with Wilde’s famous lover was a nice touch too, I thought, though this isn’t mentioned in the text.
Importantly, we also see that being queer is deemed quite a major scandal and that it affects whole families rather than just individuals. In this era, that isn’t the only thing that people need to worry about either. The book demonstrates the more misogynistic side of the climate too, talking about Emily Bronte being first published under a male name, and women not automatically inheriting titles in the way that men do. And it really is misogynistic; the men essentially get to rule the roost, and even when those who are more open to the concept of love being free note that the nobles wish to keep up appearances. With the side note of staff not marrying nobles, it is clearly a very classist time too.
This all serves as a wonderful backdrop for what is a sweet little love story too. Both Hanako and Lady Alice share a love of books, and both read them in tough times, but their reasons are different. For Lady Alice, she reads to forget the present, while Hanako does so to face hers and find hope. And that is perhaps the best way to sum up the main way the two women approach their growing relationship.
Hanako is a believer in love being free and represents some hope for a future where such things are not frowned upon. Lady Alice too truly wishes for a time when this is the case, but she has seen the way the world is, and that scares her. She views herself and her feelings as a black spot on her family and believes that her death would be better for them than the truth coming out. It’s a dark situation but one that serves the story well and allows for some lovely interactions between the two leads.
If we’re going to criticize anything here, the biggest stumbling block for readers may be the references to classic literature. Given the character’s love of books, it makes sense. But, if you’re not really a fan of the likes of Wilde, or don’t care for the era the series is set in, you may stumble. I do give plus points for referencing Frankenstein’s monster rather than making the common mistake of naming the monster Frankenstein though.
You may also see some plot points coming a mile off, such as the plot twist about Hanako’s favourite author towards the end of the volume. That isn’t too big a deal really. For me, the only thing that felt off was the more atypical manga moments. Hanako’s over the top reactions to some things are fitting with her younger appearance but feel out of place against the backdrop, and that’s a real shame.
Overall though, this was a very good read. The dynamic here is one of hope vs. hopelessness, with a philosophical clash that is born of the character’s circumstances. Hanako and Lady Alice guide things well and make this one a great choice for some Pride Month reading. This gets a 4.5 out of 5 from me.