Friday, 10 February 2012

Swoon Now! Dotter of her Father's Eyes

Bryan Talbot has built an impressively eclectic CV covering sci-fi, action and moving human drama and created a shop-owners headache with genre-defying books such as Alice in Sunderland and the Grandville series.  With Dotter of her Father's Eyes (Jonathan Cape) he returns to fact-based work of Alice... but with the sensitive character storytelling of A Tale of One Bad Rat - this time however, he's illustrating the writing of a collaborator; his wife Mary Talbot (see here for her website including more about the book).

Mary Talbot is well-renowned scholar in the fields of language, gender and power and her father, James S. Atherton, was a highly respected authority on the works of James Joyce and his books are  still well regarded today.  The story starts when Mary discovers her father's old ID card, coincidentally on the anniversary of Joyce's birth.  The two converge for her as she begins to reminisce about her upbringing whilst finding herself drawn to the story of Joyce's daughter Lucia.

What starts as a graphic autobiography, becomes entwined with Lucia's story firstly because of certain coincidences between the two women, but also drawing parallels in their relationships with their fathers and their struggles against constraints on their identities.  Mary's was more obvious with an aggressive, volatile father who only had time for his work and whilst James Joyce doted on his daughter it appears he could never bring himself to fully support her ambitions which was just as damaging in its own way.  But where Mary found support from Bryan, Lucia found herself spiralling into desperation and depression as her ambitions to dance were cut short through enforced family duties and a failed relationship with Samuel Beckett.

Bryan Talbot's artwork is playful and evocative, undoubtedly benefiting from the closeness of a husband and wife collaboration, and nicely colour-coded to distinguish between the different pasts but with a touch of colour to bring alive a treasured item.  A beautifully simple and important book.

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