An advance review of the new graphic novel, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes contrasts two coming of age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S Atherton. Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award winning comic artist and graphic novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. Produced through an intense collaboration seldom seen between writers and artists, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is intelligent, funny and sad - a fine addition to the evolving genre of graphic memoir.
"Once upon a time
And long ago
A King and a Queen
Had a Daughter.
Her name was
or Lucy Maria
Not many graphic novels begin with a poem, let alone one that barely makes any sense. The poem above open Dotter of her Father's Eyes, by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot. The graphic novel is about the life of Mary M. Talbot and her relationship with her father James S. Atherton, a Joycean scholar. James Joyce also had a daughter named Lucia and there are parallels drawn to Mary's life in their very different eras.
James Atherton was a complex man: quick to anger, intelligent, charming, nurturing and a teacher. His daughter's story depicts many happy times as well as the unhappy memories. Growing up in a house where the family didn't have a lot of money, Mary had a different childhood from the other neighborhood kids. As an adult, Talbot reflects that a lack of money this seemed to be a minor problem when compared to the way that the climate at the house that revolved around her father's moods and eccentricities.
Every milestone from Mary's childhood she paired with a milestone from Lucia's. Their lives were very different, from their family dynamics to their personal interests and pursuits in life. The story jumps back and forth between the milestones, and since there isn't always a connecting aspect it can be a bit awkward. However, the timelines for both Mary and Lucia follow their own separate paths and focus on the major turning points that shaped their lives.
The artwork is monochromatic, which highlights certain aspects in each panel for the reader to focus on. However, this also hinders the reader because many details are overlooked and sometimes makes the panels a bit difficult to follow. The color scheme is set between the three time periods: present full-color adult life of Mary, the dreary blue entire life of Lucia, and Mary's earth-tone journey from child to young adult. These colors help to set the tone for changes both between the time periods and within each individual timeline.
On top of the different color schemes, the drawing style of each separate time period changes slightly. Mary's present life the panels and characters are depicted as cartoonish, sort of resembling a Family Circus comic, while her childhood has more of a mid-20th century action comic feel with a lot of hard lines, dramatic movements and larger than life sound effects. Lucia's life has more realistic looking art with elaborate backgrounds, portraits of real historical figures and detailed cityscapes.
If you decide to pick up Dotter of her Father's Eyes, set aside a large chunk of time to just immerse yourself in the book. The story moves around a lot, which keeps the plot moving forward at a fast pace. Each part of the overall story does transition to another overall and generally relates to other sections in more than one way. There's a lot of interesting artwork, history and plotlines between characters to keep the pages turning. If there is more to come in this series, definitely put it on order before you finish the book. It leaves you wondering what other untold stories about Mary, Lucia, James Atherton & James Joyce are yet to be told. Once you do reach the end of the book, go back and ask yourself if the poem from the first page makes more sense. If it does, you should also reserve some of Joyce's work and see what drew Atherton into his obsession.
Three Stars out of Four
Review by: Sarah Sed, Outhouse Contributor