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Babbos and dotters
on 8 February 2012
"Dotter of Her Father's Eyes" is about the father/daughter relationships of two women - Mary Talbot, wife of Bryan Talbot (writer/artist extraordinaire of such books as Luther Arkwright, One Bad Rat, Nemesis the Warlock, Sandman, and the Grandville series), and Lucia Joyce, daughter of legendary novelist James Joyce (author of Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Dubliners).
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.