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Dotter of Her Father's Eyes Hardcover – February 21, 2012
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About the Author
Bryan Talbot is a British comic book artist and writer, best known as the creator of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright; its sequel, Heart of Empire; and the award-winning The Tale of One Bad Rat. He collaborated with his wife, Mary M. Talbot, to produce Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, which won the 2012 Costa biography award.
For more please visit bryan-talbot.com/biog/index.php. The author lives in Wigan, Lancashire, England.
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I hear there's another Talbot X 2 story out there and I can't wait to read it!
The book alternates between the two women at similar points in their lives from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and shows parallels between them and their fathers. Mary's father was an eminent James Joyce scholar whose work "The Books at the Wake" remains the best book written analysing Joyce's incredibly difficult novel "Finnegan's Wake", and in turn an equally difficult man to get along with. Mary details her clashes with her dad who was mentally abusive to her while growing up, often belittling her achievements and dreams.
Lucia's father wasn't abusive - Joyce was too wrapped up in his own writings to be that way - and he was generally quite involved in raising his daughter, but when she became a young woman wanting to become a professional dancer and start an independent career, Joyce and his shrill wife forbade it to the point where she became so frustrated she threw a chair at her mother. Incredibly this incident led to her becoming institutionalised, a forced way of life that she would never escape until her death.
Mary Talbot's writing is superb and she brings to life her story with warmth and candour, perfectly matching her husband's artwork in tone and mood. The book is enthralling to read and, for Mary, ultimately a happy ending. For Lucia, it's hard to imagine a thwarted dance career and an overbearing mother could lead to a decades long imprisonment, but perhaps it really was all that - maybe there is more to her story than presented here.
I loved Bryan Talbot's work in this book. It's not nearly as polished or dramatic as his work in books like Grandville, and the book is coloured infrequently, mostly in sepia tones throughout, but it's still wonderful to see. His depiction of Lucia's descent into madness is as high a quality fans have come to expect from this artist, while the drawing of he and Mary's wedding day is very beautiful in its simplicity and expression of pure happiness.
"Dotter of her Father's Eyes" is a fascinating comic book of human relationships and the importance of an unshackled human spirit, but moreover it's a great read. Who knew that Bryan Talbot's wife was also a talented writer? Highly recommended.
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.
Top international reviews
It is partly her own childhood memories, dominated by her Joycean scholar father, and part biography of Joyce’s own daughter Lucia.
This is an informative and uneasy balance and if you skipped over the intricately chronological Lucia parts you might find it less of a dry read. Talbot’s own childhood is closer to our own, depending on your age dear reader, and we find more empathy with her trials and tribulations.
Bryan does a superb job on art duties as always clearly delineating the two stories using tone and texture. There are no straight panels here as every page has an organic warmth that presses frames together in an almost memory soup. For a non-fiction story there is a great deal of creativity and imagination in the expression of ideas and emotions.
The education of the Lucia story juxtaposed with the empathic memories of Mary is odd and a little understated in places but much more brave and interesting than either story alone.
His writing is at least as accomplished as his art. "The Tale of One Bad Rat" is one of the very few comics that has actually made me cry, and deserved every plaudit and award it picked up. He also demonstrated a scholarly side in "Alice in Sunderland".
"Dotter of Her Father's Eyes" is something different though as it is a collaboration with his wife Mary, a published author and scholar in her own right. Bryan's art is right up to standard, and Mary's script is a worthy match. The book is a labour of love that describes Mary's upbringing in austere post-war Britain, while drawing parallels with that of Lucia, daughter of James Joyce during the 1920s, mostly in Paris. There is also a framing narrative concerning the present-day Mary and Bryan. Each of these narratives is depicted in its own distinct graphic style.
Both the main story-lines are interesting in their own right, describing troubled relationships between father and daughter, with very different outcomes. Mary's is eventually much happier, covering her courtship with a funny, naive young Bryan, the birth of their children, and featuring friends including one Chester (who may be connected to the protagonist of the same name in Bryan's early Underground comix!).
Lucia's life unfortunately is much more tragic: a talent and passion for dance thwarted by the demands of her unsympathetic parents, resulting in breakdowns and institutionalisation. Neither James Joyce (genius but not much of a parent) nor Mary's stern father, a frustrated intellectual and Joycean scholar -- hence the connection between the narratives -- come out of this very sympathetically.
Both stories are set against fascinating historical backgrounds, skilfully realised in both the writing and illustration: the intellectual smart set in 1920s Paris and the austerity of post-War northern Britain.
I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed Bryan Talbot's many excellent comics: this is up with the best, and won the Costa Biography award in 2012. Beyond that though, it also may be one of those Holy Grails: the comic you can introduce to intelligent non-readers that will convince them that reading these things is genuinely a worthwhile pursuit, and not "kids' stuff" to be hidden from one's intellectual acquaintances.
Though the story is sad, there is humour in the drawings which capture the irony of the harsh patriarchal upbringing and the struggle to survive of both Mary and Lucie Joyce.
Though the book doesn't take long to read, you want to read it again and again to see the many levels it functions on.
Writing Mary Talbot is articulated and drawings (by Bryan Talbot one of the pioneer of the graphic novel,) are phenomenal.
A listed book and it was for a gift so I can't comment wether it is a good book or not