Dotter of her Father’s Eyes is the kind of book that is enormously appealing to a former English Literature student with a love of comics. Addressing the latter first, Bryan Talbot is the man responsible for such comic highs as The Tale of One Bad Rat, Alice in Sunderland and, more recently, Grandville (the first two of which appeared within Paul Gravett’s recent excellent 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die). His wife Mary is a retired academic and author of such works as Language, Intertextuality & Subjectivity: Voices in the Construction of Consumer Femininity and All the World and Her Husband: Women in Twentieth-Century Consumer Culture. Dotter of her Father’s Eyes is, as you might expect, a great marriage of minds.
Part memoir and part biography, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes links the upbringing of Mary Talbot, daughter of a prominent Joyce scholar, and Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce herself, a woman who was – if this book is anything to go by – wrongly thought of as insane and who ended her days in an asylum. Mary Talbot’s father comes across as something of a tyrant, forever shouting at his children as he tap-tap-taps away at his typewriter; Lucia’s story is, obviously, more tragic as she is dragged around Europe, her own wants and needs coming second to her illustrious father, her own ambitions – to dance, principally – thwarted by the time in which she lived, circumstance and, peculiarly, her seemingly envious mother. Certain stories, such as Lucias’s relationship with Samuel Beckett, play out differently to how I’ve always thought of them (through reading Ellman’s biography of Joyce I’d always thought the relationship was unreciprocated – not the case apparently), but this is not the only eye-opening element of the book.
Having been swept up by Bryan Talbot’s escapist actionfest Grandville and its sequel Grandville Mon Amour (which are just immense fun if you’ve yet to dabble), it’s tremendously heartening to be reminded of his sheer skill in fashioning a narrative that has the ability to move you even as you can’t wait to see what happens next. Collaborating with Mary Talbot is obviously good for him (and the news that Mary Talbot is hard at work scripting another graphic novel is great news too). All told, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes feels like the kind of book that warrants serious column inches and generous sales, yet one more nail in the coffin of the whole ridiculous argument that graphic novels are for kids.
Any Cop?: An extremely satisfying memoir/biography/graphic novel.