Finding Our Home in Owen D. Pomery’s Victory Point

Owen D. Pomery portrays a longing in the pages of Victory Point; actually, he probably portrays many different longings as each character has their own needs from the English seaside village of Victory Point. The town’s returning daughter Ellen finds that most people want (and find) safety and comfort in Victory Point. Ellen’s old schoolmate Rob, one of the few black people in town, and his white wife run the family gas station, content and happy to be following in the family's legacy. For Ellen’s father, it’s the continued connection to his late wife, who died in a storm when Ellen was just 7, protecting the village’s observatory that she was responsible for. For Ellen, it’s a longing to get out of town as quickly as she can. She may have been raised in Victory Point but you get the feeling reading this that it wasn’t a home for her. Her home was with her father but it wasn’t with the village, a probably important distinction. Pomery’s story shows us characters who want something but it doesn’t show us why they want it. He lets us experience that to have us try to figure out these people's desires ourselves.

Pomery quickly shows us that Ellen is not a local but she’s also not a tourist in this small, idyllic village. Stepping off of the train from “the city” (unnamed but close enough for a quick, overnight visit,) Ellen can’t quite remember the lay of the land. She knows that there’s a little shop near the train station but can’t quite put her finger on where it is, demonstrating the fuzziness of a memory that probably hasn’t been home for a while. She also silently scoffs at the “architourists,” people from the city out to see Victory Point as something quaint and to be ticked off of their list of places to visit. She demonstrates a possessiveness of the village that maybe she doesn’t have any right to anymore. Sure, the people in town know who she is and even invite her out for drinks later in the evening (invitations which she promptly tries to evade) to catch up. Pomery places us in what’s possibly a familiar position for us of not wanting to engage in the past but also not being one of the architourists, walking through this book without really engaging in it.

Existing in between Victory Point and the city where she works in a bookstore, Ellen is suspended in a state of uncertainty. Pomery’s clear line style creates this longing in us that we shouldn’t quite trust or believe in. Part of the initial appeal of the book is Pomery’s cover image, with Ellen standing on a landing, overlooking the village and the sea. It’s a wonderful drawing that calls you into it, to be one of the “architourists” into Pomery’s story. The simple but clear beauty of the village and the drawings look like something more out of a travelogue, of places that you would want to visit, ticking off of some vacation bucket list. But Ellen’s discomfort at being home seeps into your experience of reading the book. Why is she so uncomfortable being here when everyone else is obviously happy to see her and catch up. This disconnect between her experience and everyone else’s makes you question the apparent purity of this place.

But Pomery gives Ellen one moment of bliss in the middle of her journey to her father’s home; she goes swimming in the cove where she spent so much of her childhood. This cove is her happy place. Out of every place she could be, the cove is the one place where she feels comfortable and safe enough to strip down and be exposed to all the world because the cove is part of but separate from the town. It’s her and her father’s place, a place that they shared when she was growing up. Pomery’s drawing of this moment is a wide, bird’s eye view of the cove with Ellen floating in the clear water, looking like she’s floating between the ground and the sky. He overwrites the text following this image, explaining what’s already apparent in the drawing, but it’s a misstep that’s easy to overlook because the sequence of Ellen swimming in the cove is this lovely character moment that gives her and us a nice space of tranquility in an otherwise conflicted story.

As much as it is about a place, Victory Point isn’t a travelogue; it doesn’t focus so much on the physical place as it does on the spirit of the place. Pomery digs out of Ellen’s memories a feeling about Victory Point. What do and what should places mean to us, beyond a nostalgia for a past time? That’s the struggle that ellen faces in this short, concise, and powerful book. Pomery poses questions like this without providing definitive answers. Ellen sees Victory Point one way, her father sees it another. Who are we to say who’s right and who’s wrong in what their village means to them?

Victory Point
Written and drawn by OwenD. Pomery (website, Instagram)
Published by Avery Hill Publishing (website)