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Portrait of the Artist's Wife,
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This review is from: Dotter of Her Father's Eyes (Album)
I have consistently enjoyed Bryan Talbot's work from Luther Arkwright and his Underground stuff to the Grandville books. His artwork was always outstanding and has developed over the decades while remaining instantly recognisable as his. He has added quality artwork to the likes of Sandman and 2000AD.
His writing is at least as accomplished as his art. "The Tale of One Bad Rat" is one of the very few comics that has actually made me cry, and deserved every plaudit and award it picked up. He also demonstrated a scholarly side in "Alice in Sunderland".
"Dotter of Her Father's Eyes" is something different though as it is a collaboration with his wife Mary, a published author and scholar in her own right. Bryan's art is right up to standard, and Mary's script is a worthy match. The book is a labour of love that describes Mary's upbringing in austere post-war Britain, while drawing parallels with that of Lucia, daughter of James Joyce during the 1920s, mostly in Paris. There is also a framing narrative concerning the present-day Mary and Bryan. Each of these narratives is depicted in its own distinct graphic style.
Both the main story-lines are interesting in their own right, describing troubled relationships between father and daughter, with very different outcomes. Mary's is eventually much happier, covering her courtship with a funny, naive young Bryan, the birth of their children, and featuring friends including one Chester (who may be connected to the protagonist of the same name in Bryan's early Underground comix!).
Lucia's life unfortunately is much more tragic: a talent and passion for dance thwarted by the demands of her unsympathetic parents, resulting in breakdowns and institutionalisation. Neither James Joyce (genius but not much of a parent) nor Mary's stern father, a frustrated intellectual and Joycean scholar -- hence the connection between the narratives -- come out of this very sympathetically.
Both stories are set against fascinating historical backgrounds, skilfully realised in both the writing and illustration: the intellectual smart set in 1920s Paris and the austerity of post-War northern Britain.
I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed Bryan Talbot's many excellent comics: this is up with the best, and won the Costa Biography award in 2012. Beyond that though, it also may be one of those Holy Grails: the comic you can introduce to intelligent non-readers that will convince them that reading these things is genuinely a worthwhile pursuit, and not "kids' stuff" to be hidden from one's intellectual acquaintances.