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Lucia

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“Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently… Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straitjacket.” So wrote James Joyce in 1940, in a letter about his only daughter, Lucia. It is one of the few surviving contemporary portraits of her t “Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently… Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straitjacket.” So wrote James Joyce in 1940, in a letter about his only daughter, Lucia. It is one of the few surviving contemporary portraits of her troubled life. Most other references to her have been lost. An attempt has been made to erase her from the pages of history. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia – and repeatedly hospitalised. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. And, after her death, her voice was silenced. Her letters were burned. Correspondence concerning her disappeared from the Joyce archive. Her story has been shrouded in mystery, the tomb door slammed behind her. Alex Pheby’s extraordinary new novel takes us inside that darkness. In sharp, cutting shards of narrative, Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce. And while it presents these stories in vivid and heart-breaking detail, it also questions what it means to recreate a life. It is not an attempt to speak for Lucia. Rather, it is an act of empathy and contrition that constantly questions what it means to speak for other people. Lucia is intellectually uncompromising. Lucia is emotionally devastating. Lucia is unlike anything anyone else has ever written.


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“Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently… Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straitjacket.” So wrote James Joyce in 1940, in a letter about his only daughter, Lucia. It is one of the few surviving contemporary portraits of her t “Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently… Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straitjacket.” So wrote James Joyce in 1940, in a letter about his only daughter, Lucia. It is one of the few surviving contemporary portraits of her troubled life. Most other references to her have been lost. An attempt has been made to erase her from the pages of history. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia – and repeatedly hospitalised. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. And, after her death, her voice was silenced. Her letters were burned. Correspondence concerning her disappeared from the Joyce archive. Her story has been shrouded in mystery, the tomb door slammed behind her. Alex Pheby’s extraordinary new novel takes us inside that darkness. In sharp, cutting shards of narrative, Lucia evokes the things that may have been done to Lucia Joyce. And while it presents these stories in vivid and heart-breaking detail, it also questions what it means to recreate a life. It is not an attempt to speak for Lucia. Rather, it is an act of empathy and contrition that constantly questions what it means to speak for other people. Lucia is intellectually uncompromising. Lucia is emotionally devastating. Lucia is unlike anything anyone else has ever written.

30 review for Lucia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    This book is quite unlike anything else I have read this year - a speculative fictional story centred on Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, which is fearless, challenging, allusive and brilliant. I feel hopelessly unqualified to review it, so I will start by recommending this one from Neil: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... The known facts of Lucia's life are sparse but tantalising, largely because the family destroyed her papers after her death and disowned her once she was confined to m This book is quite unlike anything else I have read this year - a speculative fictional story centred on Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, which is fearless, challenging, allusive and brilliant. I feel hopelessly unqualified to review it, so I will start by recommending this one from Neil: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... The known facts of Lucia's life are sparse but tantalising, largely because the family destroyed her papers after her death and disowned her once she was confined to mental institutions. Her story is told or suggested from a wide range of perspectives, in a series of episodic chapters, between each of which there are pages decorated with ancient Egyptian symbols. These tell a fairly linear story of an archaeologist exploring a long-sealed tomb that has been desecrated before being sealed, and describe the funerary rites and some of the associated beliefs of the Egyptians. It gradually becomes apparent that the archaeologist's attempts to piece together the story of the Egyptian girl mirror Pheby's attempts to understand Lucia and the uncertainties involved in such speculations. They also help to give the book a strikingly distinctive look and feel. The subject matter is not always easy reading - Pheby explores some dark themes including incest and animal cruelty and explores the mindset of the abusers. The research is impressive, as the author's afterword makes clear: "I also acknowledge my debts to the fields of history, music, medicine (including dentistry), embryology, parasitology, film studies, Asian and Middle Eastern studies, Russian studies, English studies, Joyce studies and Egyptology". I suspect I have only scratched the surface of what could be discussed in thus review. Thanks to Galley Beggar for publishing such an innovative and stimulating book. I am disappointed but not surprised that this one missed out on the Man Booker longlist.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    If there are those of you reading this who know Giorgio, you might say that this never happened. But how do you know? How does one ever know what it is that occurs outside the range of one’s experience? You may not know that it did happen, but that is not the same as knowing that it did not happen. Perhaps if there were documentary evidence; but who keeps such records? Is it even possible to keep evidence of things that might happen that someone wishes to keep secret? If one has secrets, and th If there are those of you reading this who know Giorgio, you might say that this never happened. But how do you know? How does one ever know what it is that occurs outside the range of one’s experience? You may not know that it did happen, but that is not the same as knowing that it did not happen. Perhaps if there were documentary evidence; but who keeps such records? Is it even possible to keep evidence of things that might happen that someone wishes to keep secret? If one has secrets, and then burns the evidence of those secrets on a pyre, one invites speculation, and speculation is infinite in a way that the truth is not. Speculation is limited only by the sick imaginations of those who speculate, where truth is not. Why shouldn’t Giorgio have tortured Lucia’s rabbit to prevent her from speaking? All things that are possible are, in the absence of facts that have been destroyed that might have proved them incorrect, equally correct. Galley Beggar Press is a small Norfolk based publisher responsible which aims to “produce and support beautiful books and a vibrant, eclectic, risk-taking range of literature” and which declares an aim to publish books that are “hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose’. This description has been taken as the criteria for the Republic Of Consciousness prize for small presses (http://www.republicofconsciousness.co...) for which fittingly it has been shortlisted in 2016 (with Forbidden Line) and in 2017 with We That Are Young – which recently went on to win the prestigious Desmond Elliott prize for debut fiction, which David-like managed to defeat the bestselling and accolade-winning Goliath of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Galley also famously was prepared to publish A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing which had taken 9 years to find a publisher and of course went on to win the Bailey’s Prize and inaugural Goldsmith Prize. This book – their latest publication is one that deserves to feature on this year’s Goldsmith list (but is unfortunately ineligible as the author is alumni of the University) so if the judges are adventurous are enough I would love to see it feature on this year’s Booker list. It is a form of literary biography –of Lucia, daughter of James Joyce, lover of Samuel Beckett, talented dancer but who spent the last 30 years of her life (and much time before that) in an asylum, finally dying in Northampton in 1982 at the age of 75 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucia_J...) Her family seem to have systematically erased most of the documentary traces of her life – and what Alex Pheby attempts here is an form of biography of a vacuum, using literary licence and drawing on the fields of “history, music, medicine (including dentistry), embryology, parasitology, film studies, Asian and Middle Eastern studies, Russian studies, English studies, Joyce studies and Egyptology” to imagine Lucia’s life in the absence of contrary hard facts (as the opening quote implies). The idea of the biography being written around a vacuum of facts carries over to the form of the biography – with a series of chapters which progress non-linearly over her life, which feature not Lucia but instead a group of characters around her: the lead undertaker preparing her for burial; a young man asked to burn her papers; her brother (with whom an incestuous relationship – covered up by torture of her pets - is claimed); a Doctor who first fails to treat her with a hocus calf-foetus serum and later oversees her final hospitalisation 30 years before her death; the manufacturer of ; the staff of two institutes administering forced water treatment; a fellow inmate; a dentist who removes her teeth; the manufacture of a curette which is used in one of (at least) two implied abortions and so on. A striking aspect of the book is the way that the chapters are interleaved with two page, hieroglyphically illustrated spreads relating to Egyptian burial rights: the right hand page of each set describes the actual rites, the left hand page recounts a tale of an archaeologist who finds a tomb of a female only to be mystified when it seems that having placed her in the tomb, her family systematically set out to undermine and reverse all of the rites designed to ease her passage into the underworld: the link to the Joyce family treatment of Lucia is clear and in fact as the novel progresses elements of this tale explicitly starts to mirror those set out in the novel (for example: the Joyce family’s committal of Lucia to the medical staff in her final institution coinciding with the family of the deceased handing over the desecration of the funeral rites to the priesthood; forced medical treatments; sealing of the bodies mouth being conflated with the forced dental treatment of Lucia. The book reminded me in some aspects of Kevin Davey’s Goldsmith shortlisted Playing Possum – with its heavy use of allusions both to literature and other art forms (in Davey’s case related to the work and interests of TS Eliot). Despite my almost complete ignorance of Joyce I was able to follow some of the allusions in this book – for example: the central role played in the book by Lucia’s acting and dancing in cut scenes from Jean Renoir’s silent film adaption of Andersen’s “Little Match Girl” – scenes which are re-interpreted by Pheby biographically in a series of emotionally devastating chapters; Jung (who treated Lucia)’s description of Joyce’s work (particularly “Ulysses”) as having the qualities of a worm https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7749... - – which inspires in this book a surreal literary riff on the potential influence of tapeworms on literature and the literary mind (as well as an implication that tapeworms may have been used to induce an abortion). Others I found a little harder to follow – for example the bizarre, bestiality ending substituted into Gogol’s The Lady With the Dog https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lad... . Overall I found this a hugely intellectual stimulating and very unusual if uncomfortable book – one which I think is far deeper than I was fully able to appreciate and certainly far deeper than this review was able to do justice. The book already seems to have caused some upset among Joyceans – I read am unnecessary censorious review in the Spectator (and another on a literary blog) which imply the book is disrespectful to Lucia and/or her family. I have also noted that an anonymous reviewer on Amazon has posted 1* reviews of this book and all Pheby’s other novels (the only book reviews that they have posted), but this seems to me to misinterpret the novel whose intent is set out I believe in one of the archaeologist chapters: This woman had gone into the afterlife friendless and I resolved to address that lack.

  3. 3 out of 5

    Neil

    Lucia Joyce was the second child of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Whilst the basic facts of her life are known and easily verifiable, very little else is known: following her death, the family made efforts to erase her from history, destroying her letters and photographs, removing her details from archives and even getting her medical records erased. This is not a book about why all this might have happened. It is a book that looks at the void created by these actions and creates a work of spec Lucia Joyce was the second child of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Whilst the basic facts of her life are known and easily verifiable, very little else is known: following her death, the family made efforts to erase her from history, destroying her letters and photographs, removing her details from archives and even getting her medical records erased. This is not a book about why all this might have happened. It is a book that looks at the void created by these actions and creates a work of speculative fiction about what Lucia's life might have been. At the same time, it is a book that turns a spotlight on both itself and wider society and asks us to face questions about what it means when we speculate and about male appropriation. The structure of the book is one of the key ways it asks these questions. It does not directly ask us to question ourselves. Instead, the main narrative of Lucia’s life is interleaved with short passages describing firstly the discovery of an ancient Egyptian tomb and the the associated discovery and dissection of a female body and secondly the funeral rites of an ancient Egyptian burial. These short passages between chapters of the main narrative act as commentary on the main narrative and cause the reader to ask the questions that the book is raising without the book asking those questions specifically. The main narrative about Lucia Joyce is told in a fragmentary, non-linear fashion. There are threads of story that weave their way between one another to create something in the mind of the reader (how I love books that work like this!). We start with Lucia’s death and the destruction of records - facts that are well-known - and then we move backwards and forwards in time to follow threads of Lucia's life. Some of the book is uncomfortable to read: as an example, there have been suggestions of incest in the Joyce family and these are included. There were several points in the book where I have to acknowledge that I felt a bit dirty as I read it. The whole book is, in truth, a work that does its job by suggestion and guidance. It relies on the reader to allow it to build an impression rather than specifically telling the reader what it is about. It would be a heartless person who is not moved by Lucia’s story. If you really want your heart to be broken as you read, watch this first: https://archive.org/details/theLittle... This is a film of Lucia Joyce playing the part of the Little Match Girl (as pointed out in the comments below, this is a mistake on my part - Lucia is one of the soldiers, not the match girl, but the point is the same as the book uses the film heavily to reflect on Lucia’s life). One of the threads of the story conflates this film with events in Lucia’s life drawing parallels and seeing darker connotations in parts of the film. I’m not sure if it is best to watch the move before or after reading the book. Perhaps, like me, you might watch parts of it as you progress through the book, but I have the feeling watching it in full at one end of the book might be better. You have to stand back and admire the research that has gone into this book. For example, there is a chapter about tapeworms that I won’t spoil by giving details, but it is written from the point of view of Carl Jung who treated Lucia and who wrote an essay about James Joyce’s Ulysses that includes the following: “You can read any of the conversations just as pleasurably backwards, for you don’t miss the point of the gags. Every sentence is a gag, but taken together they make no point. You can also stop in the middle of a sentence-the first half still makes sense enough to live by itself, or at least seems to. The whole work has the character of a worm cut in half, that can grow a new head or a new tail as required. This singular and uncanny characteristic of the Joycean mind shows that his work pertains to the class of cold-blooded animals and specifically to the worm family. If worms were gifted with literary powers they would write with the sympathetic nervous system for lack of a brain. I suspect that something of this kind has happened to Joyce…” The relevant chapter in the novel riffs on this idea and is perhaps one of the standout chapters of the book from a writing point of view. This book will challenge you intellectually. It will make you ask yourself questions. It will make you uncomfortable. It will move you emotionally. You should read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    "There are times when beauty trumps truth, but these are very few, for truth is beauty and even in the fantastic there are forms of truth - fabular truths, allegorical truths, wider human truths - that are beautiful in an universal manner.  In this, a dancing puppet can exceed any philosophy in approaching both universal truth and perfect beauty - who could say otherwise after a visit to the Louvre, or the Musee d'Orsay, or the ballet, or the countryside, or the, or the, or, all the others. The d "There are times when beauty trumps truth, but these are very few, for truth is beauty and even in the fantastic there are forms of truth - fabular truths, allegorical truths, wider human truths - that are beautiful in an universal manner.  In this, a dancing puppet can exceed any philosophy in approaching both universal truth and perfect beauty - who could say otherwise after a visit to the Louvre, or the Musee d'Orsay, or the ballet, or the countryside, or the, or the, or, all the others. The dancer Lucia Joyce, daughter of the famous writer James Joyce, performed for the famous director Jean Renoir at Les Ateliers du Vieux Colombier, Paris, France in the summer of 1927, and her performance was filmed.  She had been commissioned to perform for a role in Renoir's La Petite Marchande d'allumettes, based on Hans Christian Andersen's La Petite Fille aux allumettes, but her dance was cut from the final edit. She was removed. This is apt. Truth and beauty, perhaps they are inseparable, and so lies and ugliness." Lucia is another excellent novel from the wonderful Galley Beggar Press, publishers (astonishingly for such a small operation) of, among other books, We That Are Young, Forbidden Line, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, Feeding Time, Tinderbox, and, also by Alex Pheby, Playthings. There are already excellent reviews on Goodreads from Gumble's Yard, Hugh, Jackie Law and Neil which I would strongly commend for their insights and there is a brilliant review by David Collard in the TLS review where he describes Lucia as "an ambitious and daring investigation of consciousness, agency, selfhood, mental disorder, medical callousness and misogyny," which sums it up perfectly. So rather than cover the same ground I will focus on what I saw as the development of Lucia from Pheby's previous novel Playthings (my review https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). Playthings was based on the real-life case of Daniel Paul Schreber (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danie...). Schreber was diagnosed with what was to be later known paranoid schizophrenia and described one of his periods of mental illness in a memoir Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken. The memoir became famous mainly because Freud drew on it heavily in his work giving Schreber's condition a, well, very Freudian interpretation. But for Schreber, a distinguished jurist, the book was actually intended to answer the moral and legal question: "In what circumstance can a person deemed insane be detained in an asylum against his declared will?" Playthings although written in the 3rd person, is told from the perspective of Schreber and draws on his work and on the considerable volume of analysis of his case and Freud's interpretation. Indeed the one drawback of an impressive novel was that I felt it perhaps required, for a full appreciation, much more prior knowledge of the case than I had (which was precisely zero). Lucia by contrast feels a much more accessible novel, at least to this reader. And Lucia herself is the absent centre of the novel, which is largely written from the perspective of those who encountered her during her life And far from having a wealth of documentary evidence to draw upon, very little is known about Lucia. A surviving 1936 letter from James Joyce one of the few mentions that remains in his correspondence: "Her case is cyclothymia, dating from the age of seven and a half. She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently ... Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but has had bursts of anger over nothing when she has been confined to a straitjacket." This requires, but also enables, Pheby as a novelist to fill the gaps. As he explains after one particular anecdote where the novel has Lucia's brother Giorgio torture her pet rabbit to ensure her silence as to his incesteous relations with her: "If there are those of you reading this who know Giorgio, you might say this never happened.  But how do you know?  How does one ever know what it is that occurs outside the range of one's experience?  You may not know that it did happen, but this is not the same as knowing that it did not happen.  Perhaps if there were documentary evidence; but who keeps such records?  Is it even possible to keep evidence of things that might happen that someone wishes to keep secret?  If one has secrets, and then burns the evidence on a pure, one invites speculation, and speculation is infinite in a way that the truth is not.  Speculation is limited only by the sick imaginations of those who speculate, where truth is not.  Why shouldn't Giorgio have tortured Lucia's rabbit to prevent her from speaking?  All things that are possible are, in the absence of facts that have been destroyed that might have proved them incorrect, equally correct. The moral of this story is: do not destroy documentary evidence of the truth, since it will come back and bit you in the arse. This last a reference to the Joyce estate and their destruction of much of the relevant material including Lucia's own letters. In 2003 Carole Schloss wrote a biography "Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake”, stating that "this is a story that was not supposed to be told,” and found herself in a legal battle with the Joyce estate, which initially forced her publishers to redact significant parts of the book (in turn leading to early reviewer's arguing some of her claims were unsubstantiated) but which she eventually won: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/s... This article https://pictorial.jezebel.com/the-dis... provides both a good summary of Lucia's life, but also suggests the need for an appropriate fictional treatment. Pheby's wonderful new novel rises to the challenge he sets himself: "This woman had gone into the afterlife friendless and I resolved to address that lack."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Law

    The AI sheet that accompanied my proof copy of Lucia informed me that “Lucia is intellectually uncompromising. Lucia is emotionally devastating. Lucia is unlike anything anyone else has ever written.” I concur. This, his second work of creative fiction based on the life of a real person, establishes Alex Pheby as a literary talent deserving close attention. The eponymous Lucia was the second child of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. The bare bones of her story are easily verifiable but little else is The AI sheet that accompanied my proof copy of Lucia informed me that “Lucia is intellectually uncompromising. Lucia is emotionally devastating. Lucia is unlike anything anyone else has ever written.” I concur. This, his second work of creative fiction based on the life of a real person, establishes Alex Pheby as a literary talent deserving close attention. The eponymous Lucia was the second child of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. The bare bones of her story are easily verifiable but little else is known. She was born in Trieste, Italy and lived across Europe, her peripatetic parents moving the family from hotels to shabby apartments depending on their financial status. Lucia was a talented dancer. She was Samuel Beckett’s lover. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. Following her death her remaining family strove to erase her from the public record. They destroyed her letters, removed references to her from the archives. Even her medical records were taken. In this novel the author does not attempt to create a detailed biography. Rather he presents Lucia’s story in fragments and told from a variety of points of view. Between each chapter is a motif detailing the discovery of an ancient Egyptian tomb that is developed to serve as explanation. The story created is shocking and affecting, presented in a manner that makes it all too believable. The voice throughout remains detached, the needs of the narrators evident even when they presume they are acting in Lucia’s best interests. The reader will feel outraged at her treatment. The tale starts at Lucia’s end, in 1982, when undertakers arrive to collect the body of the deceased. Six years later a student is employed to burn the contents of a chest filled with letters, photographs and other effects. The thoughts of these characters offer a first glimpse of Lucia. Mostly though they focus on their subject as they go about the tasks assigned. Lucia is subsidiary, often something of a nuisance. This sets the tone for how she was treated in life. Lucia is depicted as an object that others must deal with. If she will not comply she must be tamed. Children are expected to behave, denied agency ‘for their own good’ with resulting complaints dismissed. Troublesome little girls can be threatened to silence them. Lucia’s relationships with various family members, especially her brother, are vividly dealt with. Whatever other’s behaviour, it is she who will stand accused of spoiling things for everyone if she protests. As a young woman Lucia was considered beautiful. She clashed with her mother which led to her being incarcerated. The cutting edge treatments for mental illnesses at the time were experimental and horrifying. Lucia was moved around as a cure for her behaviour was sought. After the war she was transferred to an asylum in Northampton where she spent her remaining decades. She was buried here, away from her family. Even in death they sought to silence her. The fragmentary style of writing and the distractions of the narrators are effectively harnessed to portray the instability that was a signature in Lucia’s life. The reader is offered glimpses but always at the periphery. There is a sense of detachment, a tacit acceptance that those who will not behave as society requires are a nuisance to be subdued and hidden away. Yet this is a story that pulses with emotion. Lucia rises inexorably from the page. The author has filled out the gaps in her history with a story that whilst unsettling resonates. That he does so with such flair and aplomb makes this a recommended read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robyn (FailFish)

    Alex Pheby's writing is fantastic. The imagery this book evokes is vivid and moving - at times shocking, but never graphic for graphic's sake. As a historical account it may be wildly inaccurate, but it is certainly a beautifully written piece of lierature. This is a fictional account of the life of Lucia Joyce - the daughter of Irish author James Joyce - who trained as a dancer but spent 50 years of her life institutionalised, with varying diagnoses of schizophrenia and cyclothymia (a precursor Alex Pheby's writing is fantastic. The imagery this book evokes is vivid and moving - at times shocking, but never graphic for graphic's sake. As a historical account it may be wildly inaccurate, but it is certainly a beautifully written piece of lierature. This is a fictional account of the life of Lucia Joyce - the daughter of Irish author James Joyce - who trained as a dancer but spent 50 years of her life institutionalised, with varying diagnoses of schizophrenia and cyclothymia (a precursor of bipolar disorder). Very little is known about Lucia. The majority of the letters between her and her father were destroyed, or have been kept out of the public domain. After her father's death in 1941, she appears to have had very little contact with the outside world. She became just another mad woman left to rot in silence, forgotten, in an insitution. There have been various attempts to chronicle Lucia's life over the years, although this is the first I have read. It is a very clever book. Some of the claims Pheby makes are shocking, although he takes great care to ensure the reader knows they are merely conjecture. However, this book doesn't try to be an accurate biography of a life. What is does is paint a beautiful picture in the reader's mind of a character, a personality, which may or may not have been Lucia's. It hypothesises events that may have shaped that mind, and the opinions that characters surrounding her may have held about her. The focus is not on facts, but on feelings. I will be interested to see the opinions of those who have read other 'biographies' of Lucia, or even of her father James. I expect this will compare very favourably.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Declan

    My review is here: http://www.drb.ie/essays/a-fire-in-th...

  8. 3 out of 5

    LindaJ^

    I've not read any reviews other than my GR friend Hugh's, which is what led me to read the book. I knew it was about James Joyce's daughter Lucia, about whom, though, I knew nothing. The book was published by a small independent publisher. I downloaded the Kindle e-book and started it 8 days ago. It was a very challenging read. The format was creative and unique. Upon finishing it, I wasn't sure what I'd learned about Lucia -- had she been sexually abused by her father, uncle, and brother? had s I've not read any reviews other than my GR friend Hugh's, which is what led me to read the book. I knew it was about James Joyce's daughter Lucia, about whom, though, I knew nothing. The book was published by a small independent publisher. I downloaded the Kindle e-book and started it 8 days ago. It was a very challenging read. The format was creative and unique. Upon finishing it, I wasn't sure what I'd learned about Lucia -- had she been sexually abused by her father, uncle, and brother? had she been locked away in a psychiatric hospital? had she ever been a dancer? did she throw a chair at someone? who was the old man who ordered all her personal papers to be burned? And what were the segments about an Egyptian tomb/mummy all about? After finishing, the first thing I did was an Internet search for information about Lucia. After reading a few articles, I found a few answers. Seems she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed in her 20's or early 30's and died while in a mental institution. She had been a dance student in her teens and very early 20's. All her papers, and those of her doctor and best friend, were destroyed or otherwise disposed of. While sexual abuse by her father was not confirmed, it seemed to be implicated, and Lucia was described on occasion as sexually promiscuous. But what about the Egyptian princess mummy? What was that all about? Were the actions of the archeologist who attempted to clean up clean up the evidence that the mummy had not been loved or properly prepared for the afterlife analogous to those of the author in writing the book? That will be the topic of my next web search. So what did I think about the book? I cannot say I liked it. At times, I was repelled. But the writing was often brilliant and it was very creative. Hence, I would give it a 2 star rating for my emotional response to it and a 4 star rating for structure and writing. I averaged those to come up with my 3 star rating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    June Scott

    Review to follow.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marc Nash

    Video review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I56hc...

  11. 5 out of 5

    enricocioni

    Often I find that What does Alex Pheby's novel about Lucia Joyce have in common with André Øvredal's film THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, a horror film set in a haunted morgue? Many things, it turns out! (1) Both LUCIA and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE revolve around a single dead woman. The woman at the centre of LUCIA is Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, who died in 1982. The woman at the centre of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, played by Olwen Kelly, remains unnamed and unidentified for the entirety of the fi Often I find that What does Alex Pheby's novel about Lucia Joyce have in common with André Øvredal's film THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, a horror film set in a haunted morgue? Many things, it turns out! (1) Both LUCIA and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE revolve around a single dead woman. The woman at the centre of LUCIA is Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, who died in 1982. The woman at the centre of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, played by Olwen Kelly, remains unnamed and unidentified for the entirety of the film; the exterior of her body, including the cloudiness of her eyes, suggest that she has died only recently. (2) Not much is known about either woman, but they are both surrounded by clues linking them to disturbing, violent events. With regards to Lucia Joyce, a great deal of documents relating to her, including her letters, were destroyed by her nephew, Stephen James Joyce: however, it is clear that she led a difficult life, at the very least due to her repeated confinement in psychiatric institutions, the last one lasting over thirty years, from 1951 to the year of her death. The halo of silence that surrounds her, combined with her history of mental illness, has given rise to much speculation. Could it be that some unimaginable trauma had a particularly devastating effect on Lucia's psyche? Could it be that the Joyce Estate has been trying to hide something? As for Jane Doe, nothing at all is known about her, except that her body was found at the scene of a multiple murder, in a locked house, with no signs of forced entry. (3) In both cases, men take it upon themselves to piece together the women's stories. In THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, these men are Tommy, the town coroner—played by Brian Cox—and his son Austin—played by Emile Hirsch—who will one day inherit his father's job. In Lucia, the man in question is the author, Alex Pheby, who doesn't exactly write himself into the narrative, but does create a stand-in. Between each chapter, the reader gets a paragraph or two of the continuing story of two archaeologists who discover a tomb buried under the sands of Egypt: the sarcophagus contains the body of a woman, and all around there are clues that whoever was in charge of the mortuary rituals attempted to deny the woman her rightful afterlife—for example, by defacing her image, and her removing her protective talismans. Though it is never stated explicitly, it's clear that this is a metaphor for Pheby's work researching and writing this novel, and that one of the archaeologists represents Pheby himself. (4) Both stories are told by men; both men are aware of the potentially exploitative direction their stories could follow, and take pains not to pursue that direction. The way André Øvredal shot and lit it, Jane Doe/Olwen Kelly's body is never sexualised: it's all very clinical, with no gratuitous "money shots"; if anything, there is something unsettling and alien about her nakedness. As for LUCIA, Pheby explores questions of exploitation most directly through the reflections the archaeologist elaborates as he explores the tomb, and as he witnesses his colleague's unseemly excitement at the prospect of the renown they'll gain once they make their discovery public. (5) In both LUCIA and THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, it becomes clear that the women at their centre were silenced, both by the men in her life and by patriarchal culture more generally. To read the rest of this review, head over to my blog, Strange Bookfellows: https://strangebookfellowsblog.wordpr...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Ambitious, breathtaking, beautiful, challenging. This book draws you in, keeping a snakelike hold on you. Pheby gives authority to speculation in the absence of truth, and his musings on what could have been the life of Lucia Joyce give pause for thought. I powered through this book in less than two days, unable and unwilling to let it go until I had reached the end. The language is masterful, at times leaving you close to tears, at times repelled (the chapter on tapeworms makes for particularly Ambitious, breathtaking, beautiful, challenging. This book draws you in, keeping a snakelike hold on you. Pheby gives authority to speculation in the absence of truth, and his musings on what could have been the life of Lucia Joyce give pause for thought. I powered through this book in less than two days, unable and unwilling to let it go until I had reached the end. The language is masterful, at times leaving you close to tears, at times repelled (the chapter on tapeworms makes for particularly uncomfortable reading). The juxtaposition of Lucia's story with the story of the discovery of an undisturbed sarcophagus of Ancient Egypt is unsettling. It is hard to escape the graverobbing aspects of Lucia's story, Pheby plunders her life for literary exploration. The author opens the mouth of the dead in both stories. The Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with the intention that their rest would not be disturbed, and Pheby is the explorer who raids the tomb. The question the reader must answer is whether he defaces or defends what he finds. I am still wavering over my answer. A compelling read.

  13. 3 out of 5

    Val

    Lucia Joyce was born in Trieste in 1907 (then part of Austria), the daughter and second child of James and Nora. The family moved to Zurich in 1915 and also spent time in Paris, where Lucia trained as a dancer. Her mental health became cause for concern, so she was examined at Carl Jung's Burghölzli psychiatric clinic in Zurich and later had blood tests at St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton. The diagnosis was schizophrenia, starting with psychotic illness from the age of seven-and-a-half. She w Lucia Joyce was born in Trieste in 1907 (then part of Austria), the daughter and second child of James and Nora. The family moved to Zurich in 1915 and also spent time in Paris, where Lucia trained as a dancer. Her mental health became cause for concern, so she was examined at Carl Jung's Burghölzli psychiatric clinic in Zurich and later had blood tests at St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton. The diagnosis was schizophrenia, starting with psychotic illness from the age of seven-and-a-half. She was staying with Maria Jolas when her condition became acute and she was hospitalised in 1936. The rest of the family moved back to Zurich during the war, where her father died. Her guardians transferred her to the Northampton hospital in 1951, where she spent the rest of her life. Little else is known about Lucia and her nephew is protective of personal family papers, which leaves room for speculation, conjecture and fictional treatments of her life. This novel is one of them. The author intersperses imagined episodes from Lucia's life with those from Egyptian funeral procedures and an archaeological investigation in the tomb of a female pharaoh whose image has been defaced. Lucia and Egyptian funerals are considered two of the major inspirations for "Finnegans Wake". This novel is clever and well written, but the author's unhealthy fascination with incest meant that I did not enjoy it as much as more objective reviewers.

  14. 3 out of 5

    BringMeMyFix

  15. 4 out of 5

    M

  16. 3 out of 5

    Anna Vaught

  17. 3 out of 5

    Jure Godler

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zaya

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ferny Q

  22. 3 out of 5

    Themis

  23. 3 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ben Hall

  25. 3 out of 5

    Lauren McAskie

  26. 3 out of 5

    Jacquie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Preti

  28. 5 out of 5

    AG

  29. 3 out of 5

    Crazymontecristo

  30. 3 out of 5

    Luisa

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