Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

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...

36 comments:

Bree said...

I learn so much just by reading your blog! :D

Awww, it's okay, girl! Sometimes some books are just not that awesome to read because of the way the writer wrote it and not because of the story.

I read a book by James Joyce for my AP Lit class. He's a good writer, too bad he cared too much about his career and not his daughter. :(

xoxo, Bree

http://vivalabreee.blogspot.com/

♥ joei said...

Im familiar about James Joyce but I didnt know there was a book about his daughter. Cool :)

www.joeiandme.com

Oh my Dior! said...

what a shame that the book isn't so inspirational!

http://www.ohmydior.org/

Sarah said...

I agree, this story would make a great screenplay!
x

Pratishtha Durga said...

What a sad and wasted life, isn't it? But so many young talents have been destroyed by families looking to keep "wildness" under wraps. I can imagine your dilemma, but it's true: Great research does not make a great biography. This was supposed to be a book, not a dissertation.

Josie said...

That's so tragic -- she sounds phenomenally talented.
xo Josie
www.winksmilestyle.com

Melanie's Randomness said...

What a shame that the book wasn't so good!! I've never heard of her but I've read one of her father's books. I read "A portrait of an artist as a young man" where a boy is striving to be a part of society. Ironically I now know his daughter didn't fit in. I wonder if that's what inspired him to write such a book about a guy moving away from the wild life of prostitutes? hmmm....

Poor girl if she was wrongly imprisoned. That's scary. She must have danced beautifully!! =)

Tights Lover said...

Wow, what a sad story...especially considering she had worked so hard to grow out of her Dad's shadow and make a name for herself. People in her position today would probably just use their dad's money to finance their own reality TV show which features them doing nothing of interest...not that I have any particular examples in mind.

It's too bad the biography was no good. It seems like too fascinating of a story to be captured by a boring bio...

Sherin said...

I tend to stay away from biolraphies anyway, but shame to hear that you were dissappointed.
Thanks for sharing a bit about her though.

Couture Carrie said...

Lovely bio and pics, darling!
You write so beautifully!

xoxox,
CC

Mouthwash said...

I understand your frustrations. I too am irritated with a book I am currently reading. These books should be engrossing and difficult to pu down: and instead the authors have butchered it. :(

Heey...maybe YOU could write a better one? ;)

Amber

Ambersmouthwash

Courtney Erin said...

It's possible that the book was not intended to be a popular biography but, rather, a rigorous scholarly analysis (not that that necessarily excuses it but if the intended audience is literary scholars or historians then it might explain some of the author's choices...as a historian I know for a fact that, for example, when I wrote my MA thesis about Queen Anna of Denmark and the Jacobean court, it would have seriously disappointed anyone looking for a fascinating biography but did not fail to disappoint an academic audience). Either way, she sounds like a fascinating personality whose worthy of a more stimulating examination!

xoxo ~ Courtney
http://sartorialsidelines.com

David L Macaulay said...

have never heard of this cat but a gorgeously stylish blog entry as always - maybe I won't get the book, tho

Style, She Wrote said...

Sounds like it should have been a great read. Too bad. Love your candid review though -- "It is one of the most dreadfully boring biographies I have ever read in my life." I literally laughed out loud! xo style, she wrote

Kavery said...

I recall James Joyce being not so interesting so was surprised his daughter had such a full life.

this free bird said...

good Lord--to think I could be imprisoned for being wild tempered. scary!!

Bonnie said...

She sounds interesting. She is one of those people I would love to be able to have a conversation with.

P.S. James Joyce was kind of bat-shit nuts, anyway. I spent a semester studying him.

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Ann said...

What an interesting life to lead but sad...

Love your review of the book and the little bits of info. Nice post, thanks for sharing.

zenegra said...

such lovely fashion trend they have got in the old days,, a different world.

Cafe Fashionista said...

You always read the most incredible books, Jennifer. I have a recommendation for you...Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin. Cross my heart you will absolutely love it! :)

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

What a tragic life! I would love to see her book as a screenplay!

xoxo,
Chic 'n Cheap Living

district5 said...

So interesting. Your blog is perfect for learning many things. Thanks!

Christine
http://district5-fashion.blogspot.com/

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

what a wasted life...isn't it?

you write the greatest reviews. definitely interesting!!

betty xx

Meri said...

I think YOU should write biographies! You make me so interested in everyone you cover- you have an incredible talent! I didn't even know Lucia existed and now I want to look her up for more! So, I'd say mission accomplished!

Venus In Virgo said...

Her life sounds enchanting. I must read this, thanks. XOXO

Dahl said...

It's so nice of you to honor the author's research, even though her book sucked! Someone who feels guilty about giving a bad book review has to be a nice person. But it's also nice that you gave a frank review. I agree, it's totally scary that she might not even have been mentally ill, yet still was locked up in a hospital. That's the case with many of the old mental institutions back in the day. At least things have gotten better now! I tagged you as a lovely blogger. :) http://thearcenciel.blogspot.com/

Ashley/ MILK TEETHS said...

What a shame that the actual bio turned out to be so boring because judging from how you tell it, Lucie Joyice was definitely one interesting lady.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm so glad you read it so I didn't have to. :)

Lyosha said...

thanks for sharing this information with us! It's so nice to open the blog and find out a lot of new and useful information. thank you!

Lyosha
Inside and Outsde Blog

VLM. said...

I learnt so much from reading this, thankyou for sharing! I've never heard of either of these people, but now I have. Sometimes books don't turn out well, and unfortunately Biographies and Autobiographies have a higher chance of turning out badly, in my opinion. xoxo, Veena <3

http://seven-inch-stilettos.blogspot.com

Vasu said...

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Audrey Allure said...

Wow, just reading what you wrote makes me want to find out more about her - she does seem like an interesting woman.

Rachel {Da Paura ♥} said...

Wow this is incredibly interesting and what a terribly sad tragedy. Wasted talent is certainly one of the greatest tragedies in my opinion.

xo
Rachel

Punctuation Mark said...

looks like a great books... will check it out especially after I'm done reading Jane Austen... ha!

Anonymous said...

If you always write interesting, I will be your regular reader. skin care

John Woods said...
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