Bryan Talbot should be recognised as a national treasure for his service to British comics. Seemingly as comfortable in a fictional steam-punk universe of talking animals as he is in non-fiction, there must be nothing this talented artist and writer can’t put his hand to.
In Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, Talbot takes on an autobiographical history written by his wife, Mary. Mary’s father was an eminent scholar of James Joyce, who poured his life into his work. Whether tapping away at a typewriter, producing essays and dissertations, or quoting Joycean bons mots, he wasn’t left with much time for his family.
However, he deeply inspired his daughter’s own work, who also went on to become a literary academic. Through her own studies she finds out about Lucia, Joyce’s daughter, and sees parallels between the two daughters’ lives.
This book loops from childhood to the present day, and intertwines Lucia’s story too. Bryan’s skill as a designer and illustrator come to the fore, with a clarity of presentation that leaves you perfectly clear what’s going on, even when the story is leaping through time.
Mary’s tale is interesting and engaging, a coming of age story from a female perspective, but where the male artist is as deeply entrenched in the story (literally married to the subject) as the writer. The parallels Mary draws add a rich flavour to the text, and she puts her own knowledge of how stories should fit together to good use here.
Books like this are few and far between, and aren’t what most people expect of comics. Don’t let that put you off though. Bryan’s illustration is solid and sympathetic, while Mary’s story makes for an interesting read.