The Joyce Girl is published in June 2016 by Impress Books. My Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy and inviting me on to the blog tour. Profits from the first year royalties go to YoungMinds in memory of Lucia Joyce, who spent most of her life interred in an asylum #youngmindsmatter.
The Joyce Girl won the Impress Prize for New Writers in September 2015. The shortlist was judged by a panel of experts in the publishing industry. The novel was also longlisted for the Bath Novel Award and the Caledonia Novel Award.
1928 Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music, literature and dance. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer, training with some of the world’s most gifted performers. When a young Samuel Beckett comes to work for her father, she’s captivated by his quiet intensity and falls passionately in love. Persuaded she has clairvoyant powers, Lucia believes her destiny is to marry Beckett. But when her beloved brother is enticed away, the hidden threads of the Joyce’s lives begin to unravel, destroying Lucia’s dreams and foiling her attempts to escape the shadow of her genius father.
1934 Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent by her father to pioneering psychoanalyst, Doctor Jung. For years she has kept quiet. But now she decides to speak.
Based on the true story of Lucia, The Joyce Girl is a beautiful story of thwarted ambition and the nurturing but ultimately destructive love of a father
My initial reaction when offered to read this book was one of dismissal. I am not much of a historical fiction reader and I only know James Joyce and Samuel Beckett by name, and of course I had never heard of Lucia. I can confirm that I was wrong on every count of being dismissive. This book is quite simply stunning, it deserves to be on my best books of the year for so many reasons.
This book tells the little known story of James Joyce's daughter Lucia who lives to dance, who has a vibrancy and a lust for life that is as endearing as it is charming. She breathes energy wherever she goes. However she is also constrained by those around her, those that should have nurtured her and treated her better. Those that should have allowed her to be the vibrant butterfly that she was, instead of crushing her very essence. This is a story of identity and always having to live in the shadow of somebody else, having to forego your own dreams for the dreams and desires of another. People exploiting another for their own selfish gains.
The author paints a superb picture of Paris at that time, I could almost feel myself in the restaurants and walking down the streets. Chapters interspersed with the Lucia Paris days are chapters relating to her time with Carl Jung and it is here that we get an insight in the real Lucia. These chapters for me were absolutely heart breaking. Where all I could see was a vulnerable and broken girl, brought down by the chains that surrounded her. There was a naivety about Lucia that brought me to tears, and a realisation that she would never live her own dreams.
I must applaud the author for the sheer amount of research that must have gone into writing a novel of this magnitude. It is brave, it is bold but most of all it is beautiful. I am so pleased that somebody cared enough to bring the story of Lucia to the front, as it very much deserved to be. I never knew her, or about her but now I can assure you I will never forget her.
The writing is tight and the story flowed, it didn't feel like there was fact layered upon fact. I just immediately became engrossed in the scene and didn't want to leave the story behind.
From the very first page I was captivated by Lucia, the beautiful, elegant, graceful Joyce Girl. I defy you not to be too. There are not many books that I would describe as being deserved to be read. This is one of those, I actually feel honoured to have read this one. Please read it too.
Here's to you Lucia.
About the Author:
Annabel Abbs grew up in Bristol, Wales and Sussex, before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, The Joyce Girl, won the 2015 Impress Prize and was longlisted for the 2015 Bath Novel Award and the 2015 Caledonia Novel Award. Her short stories have been long and shortlisted for various awards. She is now completing her second novel, based on the life of Frieda von Richthofen, wife and muse to D.H. Lawrence. Before she began writing she spent 15 years running a marketing consultancy where her clients included Reuters, Sony and the FT. She lives in London and Sussex with her husband and four children.
There is some more information below about the Impress Prize...
Also please have a look at the other stops of the blog tour...