September 7, 2016

The Joyce Girl. Annabel Abbs

book cover
Published:Hachette NZ
Date: 30th August 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 358
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Thank you to Hachette NZ
4 stars                Add to Goodreads
Paris, 1928. Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music and literature from artists such as Ford Madox Ford and Zelda Fitzgerald. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of controversial genius James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer. But when Lucia falls passionately in love with budding writer (and fellow Irish expat) Samuel Beckett he is banned from the Joyce family home.

Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent to pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For years she has kept quiet. Now she decides to speak.

My thoughts banner
The Joyce Girl is a historical novel, written with imagination and based on fact. It has been well researched by the author and it provides insight into the life of Lucia Joyce in a very accessible way.

I chose to read it not because I was drawn by the writing of James Joyce her father! I'm afraid his writing is inaccessible to me and I have no desire to labour long and hard to try to access it. I was drawn by the name Samuel Beckett because as an undergraduate we studied his play Waiting for Godot and I watched it dramatised on stage. I have never had the urge to return to it!

In this book we have the story told through the eyes of Lucia. We see her family life and how she is somehow tied to her parent's apron strings, not allowed to be independent, bonded with her father but in a somewhat odd way. Her mother does not warm to her and spends her time coddling Lucia's brother Giorgio. From the outside looking in, Joyce may have been a genius, but family life looked to me to be rather dysfunctional.

The book moves between 1928 Paris and 1934 Zurich. In Paris we witness Lucia living with her family, dancing and being entranced by Samuel Beckett. Fast forward to 1934 where life has obviously taken a turn for the worse and she lives in an asylum and is being psychoanalysed by Jung.

This is a sad story - Lucia a talented and gifted woman, controlled by her family in so many ways. Her descent into illness is not surprising given what she had to put up with.

This is extremely well written, and explores the life of one family's secrets. and how that affected Lucia in particular. While she longs for love, acceptance and independence it is denied her.


  1. I tried to read a Joyce book, well I did 2 times for class, but omg how boring it was

  2. Replies
    1. It was Mary, different to my normal but eye opening.

  3. Love the timeline, great review Kathryn!

  4. I am drawn to this one, loving anything set in Paris in the 1920s...and the world of literary/artistic people from that time.

    I've never read James Joyce, but one of my literature professors was a big fan. lol.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. This sounds wonderful! I was a little hesitant on this because Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one of my least favorite books of all time so I'm glad to see that isn't an issue. I can't resist this time period and this sounds wonderful.


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