Review: Forte by Manon Heugel

Genre: Comics, Contemporary Woman, Graphic Novels

Publisher: Dargaud

Pages: 208

Publication Date: 22 April, 2020

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bookmarks


Flavia Antunes grew up in a favela. Her father was a casualty of gang warfare; her mother, a cleaning lady, is all she has left. That is, until she meets Mr. Lima, a wealthy old man who introduces her to her future: the piano. Music will take her far from home, all the way to a prestigious Paris conservatory. Being a foreign student is hard: low-paying jobs, prejudiced landlords, competitive peers. But Paris also has its perks, like love, friendship, and undreamt-of opportunities… Can Flavia find a way to balance the demands of the heart and her demanding art?

My Review:

Forte is a beautifully illustrated coming of age story about a Brazilian girl – Flavia, who overcomes her adversities and works extremely hard to earn her degree as a concert Pianist from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot.

Flavia grew up in a favela – a Brazilian word for slum – and lost her father when she was a small child. To support the household, her mother took up a cleaning job at a rich old man’s house, who showed keen interest in teaching little Flavia how to play the piano.

The story fast forwards from here to Mr. Liam – her mother’s employer – hiring a private tutor for Flavia. She trains to apply for a scholarship to the prestigious music institute – Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot. Once Flavia moves to Paris to get her degree as a Concert Pianist, she faces new adversities. She has to find a job to sustain herself while working hard to perfect her techniques. Making new friends in a new place is also a challenge nonetheless.

Flavia’s journey has a relatable but predictably linear narrative and the ways she overcomes her adversities are also predictable. Her revelations surrounding music on her journey to attain the degree are many in number and she also goes through an emotional roller-coaster when it came to matters of the heart.

A few things which bothered me about the plot was about how abruptly her father – who was initially shown to be a man liked by all – was killed and was never mentioned from there on. I felt like there was a void within Flavia which wasn’t addressed towards the end of the story or at any point at all. Her impulsive nature and her temperament also made the character harder to like and to root for.

Overall it was a beautiful short read for me albeit a little too predictable and simple. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the simplicity of things, but this level of simple just didn’t seem to cut it for me. With that in mind, I’d rate this book with 3.5 bookmarks out of 5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a read during a short journey (not that any of you should be travelling right now).

I’d like to thank Netgalley and Dargaud for providing me with a copy in lieu of an honest review. I’d also like to congratulate the author – Manon Heugel and illustrator Kim Consigny for creating a whimsical story about hard work and success!

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