Monday, July 25, 2011
Book Review: Lucia Joyce, To Dance in the Wake
I recently read Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, by Carol Loeb Shloss. It chronicles the life and death of Lucia Joyce, the daughter of literary legend, James Joyce.
I have to be blunt. I was incredibly disappointed with this book. It is one of the most dreadfully boring biographies I have ever read in my life.
I snatched this book up from the library because Lucia Joyce is fabulous. She was a phenomenal dancer whose talent was overshadowed by her brilliant and famous father. Her career was stifled because of a permanent trip to the loony bin.
Lucia is, in fact, such a fiery, dynamic character that it seems almost impossible that someone was able to make her life seem so dry.
The author, Shloss, spent most of her adult life researching the novelist's daughter.
But, that's the problem. This book reads more like a textbook than a biography. And it's NOT a small book.
It even got to the point where I couldn't finish it.
I don't recommend this book.
But, I do want you to know a little bit about Lucia.
Growing up, Lucia was ambitious for fame. She longed to be recognized for her own talents as a dancer, rather than for simply being James Joyce's daughter.
After all, her father was one of the most influential writers in the 20th century. Everyone, even Marilyn Monroe, was obsessed with his work.
Lucia and her father were extremely close. It is even believed that she was the muse for his final novel, Finnegan's Wake.
Life seemed perfect while she was a young adult. She was the daughter of one of the most famous men in the world, she was becoming a well-known dancer in Europe, and she was dating literary genius Samuel Beckett, who was at the time her father's protege.
But, unfortunately, happiness doesn't last forever.
Her mental state began deteriorating and her life began to fall apart. Samuel called off their relationship. She began showing signs of schizophrenia. She had to quit dancing.
Her father became sick with worry and consumed with helplessness. His friends panicked that his daughter's mental breakdown was causing him to lose concentration on his writing.
Believing his work to be more important than his daughter, his wife and son quickly had Lucia hospitalized.
This caused James even more unhappiness and distress. He never believed his daughter was insane. He believed she was merely a free spirit, driven by passion to dance as he was to writing.
But he died before he could save Lucia.
She spent the rest of her life in mental institutions.
Today it is widely believed, especially with the help of Shloss's research, that Lucia might not have been mentally ill, but simply wild-tempered. There are many people who believe she was wrongly imprisoned.
Scary, isn't it?
I feel bad giving this book such an awful review, because the research Shloss did was absolutely incredible. I think the book could be a goldmine for a screenplay. Lucia's life could be an Oscar-worthy film, I would think...