Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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

At first glance, this title, Dotter of HerFather’s Eyes, seems to imply a loving father doting on a favorite daughter, as in “apple of her father’s eye.” But the book tells two intertwined stories of father-daughter relationships in which the daughters do not live up to the fathers’ expectations; they are not the “dotters of their fathers’ eyes.” Those would be other “dotters,” more conformist and compliant. These daughters, Lucia Joyce and Mary Talbot, are connected by their fathers’ professions. Lucia was the daughter of renowned author James Joyce. Mary was the daughter of renowned Joycean scholar, James Atherton. Although born several generations apart, both young women struggled against the expectations of parents and society. Lucia’s story is the more tragic of the two. Born in 1907, she grew up on the European continent, poor but surrounded by famous intellectuals and scholars. She loved modern dance and planned to pursue a career.  But her passion was not taken seriously and her ambitions were thwarted. Her father, considered the most influential of modernist writers, did not allow his daughter to become a modern woman.  Mary’s story has the better outcome. She was eventually able to escape her father’s abusive control and create her own life, family and career in academia. She, a successful writer, and her husband, a well-known graphic artist, have partnered to create this elegantly told story of two lives. It is the first graphic work (not graphic novel, since the book is part memoir and part biography) to win the Costa biography award.