The Tale of One Bad Rat is a very special story. In this graphic novel, Bryan Talbot tackles the serious subject of child sexual abuse and its after-effects. “Once upon a time, there was a very bad rat …” thus begins the story of Helen Potter, an abused English teenager, who runs away from home with her beloved pet rat and finds herself begging on the streets of London. Helen, an artist herself, has always found solace in the books of (Helen) Beatrix Potter and found similarities between her life and the life of her favorite author. Beatrix Potter’s courage and success provide a very powerful inspiration for Helen, who decides to leave behind the semi-homeless life in London and head north to Hill Top Farm, Beatrix’s home in the English Lake District. The journey is not easy, but it is the beginning of her recovery. Upon reaching the Lake District, Helen is fortunate to find a safe place to live and work at an inn run by a kind couple. This is where she takes active steps to understand the harm that has been done to her and to rebuild her life. Eventually, she finds the strength to confront her abuser and frees herself from her past.
The graphic novel format makes Helen’s story accessible to a wide audience. It can offer guidance and hope to the abused as well as help the rest of us to understand what such victims go through. It is a very timely novel and it is hard to believe that it was first published in 1995. It is clearly visible that the topic was well researched and crafted with great responsibility and tact. As it deals with the aftermath of child sexual abuse, the author states on his website that the novel has been used in several child abuse centers in Britain, America, Germany and Finland.