Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dotter of her Father's Eyes by Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot

If you loved Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, read Dotter of her Father's Eyes. Mary and Bryan Talbot, a husband and wife team, have created a compelling graphic novel memoir of Mary's fraught relationship with her difficult father, James Atherton. Atherton was an eminent Joycean scholar and a teacher. Dotter of her Father's Eyes also explores contrasts and parallels between Mary's childhood and that of James Joyce's daughter, Lucia.

Bryan Talbot changes art styles to differentiate between time periods: full colour Tintin-style panels for contemporary scenes; freeform page design in sepia tones on textured paper for Mary's childhood and adolescence (at times reminiscent of David Small's Stitches); and inky washes of dark blue with black for the Joyce family's unsettled life in Paris in the 1920s and '30s. As a young woman, Lucia Joyce began to make a name for herself as a dancer, but her parents dismissed and discouraged her talent. (The dance scenes brought Sabrina Jones' graphic novel biography, Isadora Duncan, to mind.) Sadly, Lucia ended up in a mental institution.

Father-daughter relationships and the restricted options available to women before and immediately after the second world war are the two main subjects in this intriguing book. I loved it.

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