I’ve talked about this book so much, I assumed I had already reviewed it somewhere, but no. Bloomsday seems the right day to do so at last. I considered spending Bloomsday in Dublin — being in Ireland after all — but when I thought about the six hours I’d have to spend traveling back and forth, I thought Galway’s the perfect place to spend the day writing. I will go on my own wander about town later.
Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of her Father’s Eyes offers the very finest graphic storytelling: a compelling and complex narrative that relies on the magic interplay of words and pictures. It’s a book full of visual delights: the design shows such attention to detail, from the end papers to the three intertwining narratives rendered in different but complementary styles. If you’ve read other works by Bryan, that’s precisely what you’ve come to expect.
I was going to say I hadn’t been familiar with Mary’s writing before this, but of course it turns out I had, as she’s written quite a lot on gender, language and consumer culture. I just hadn’t connected the Talbot names! This is Mary’s story of her childhood, of remembering her childhood and how she’s sees it through the prism of Lucia Joyce’s life because her father, James Atherton, was a prominent Joycean.
Lucia’s life is a heartbreaking one; there are parallels between their lives — headstrong daughters butting heads with their famous (and equally willful) fathers. But the contrasts are perhaps more important and show why Talbot achieves success and happiness while Lucia ends so tragically. Part of the difference is time: women’s lives have improved despite the continuing madness of retrograde morons. Part too is due to finding a true partner: the book itself shows the beauty of that relationship, but the story brings it to life. Ultimately, the power of creation — and the horrifying effects of having that human need crushed — offers the most powerful beacon.
Exquisite art: there’s such beauty here, but the most harrowing images seared my brain: Robin’s birth and Lucia’s “dance” in the sanatorium. It’s an incredibly moving story with a lot of sorrow, but ultimately reaffirming. You’ll treasure it.