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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  36 reviews
“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
Paperback, 356 pages
Published June 14th 2018 by Galley Beggar Press
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Gumble's Yard
Joint winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize.


I re-read this book in advance of a Book group dinner with a group of other Goodreaders.

On a re-read, further aspects of this outstanding book struck me:

Firstly the way in which the opening chapter of the archaeologist describes Pheby’s own intentions and motivations in writing the book - which I think also shows his own very clear awareness that even by writing this book he can be accused of being the literary equiva
Joint Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019

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:

The known facts of Lucia's life are sparse but tantalising, largely because the family destroyed her papers aft
And there I made to repair the damage that had been done, to the best of my abilities. In the space where her face had been scored away, I painted it, using her death mask as a reference. In the places where the spells of protection should have been, I copied scenes from other tombs, overwriting what had been there and making palimpsests of the originals. Amongst the rags of her bindings I placed amulets from my own collection, particularly - my pride - the heart scarab, onto which I carved the ...more
lark benobi
Here is one of a string of books I've read lately that exquisitely accomplish what they set out to do, and yet leave me feeling dissatisfied and troubled.

I'm wondering why this novel was something Pheby felt compelled to write in the first place. Over and over again I read about horrific abuses being done to Lucia Joyce, written from the point of view of a man who is abusing her, including her brother and her father and her passing-lovers and her caregivers at the institution. It's a disturbin
Paul Fulcher
Joint winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize

The judges' citation:
In his review for the Guardian, Ian Sansom wrote “Pheby is a writer possessed of unusual – indeed, extraordinary – powers”. Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James, is not a new subject for fiction. What is new here, and startlingly so, is how Pheby decides to tells her story. Psychological cruelty has rarely been rendered by such a cool hand. In this novel nothing is real; everything is real. Biographical fiction at its mos
MJ Nicholls
The third title from Galley Beggar Press that has my mind blown. In Lucia, Pheby reconstitutes the fragments of fact known about Lucia Joyce, the schizophrenic only daughter of Nora Barnacle and Jimmie Joyce. In a series of unstinting scenes lingering on the mistreatment and exploitation of Lucia’s body (at the hands of her uncle, brother, father, and employers), the novel presents a clinical and compassionate snapshot of an enigmatic and unknowable historical casualty, with alternating chapters ...more
Katia N
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is a very angry, fierce and disturbing book. Occasionally reading it hurts almost physically. But it is a beautiful book nevertheless.

Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce was extremely talented girl struck with mental illness in her twenties, committed to different mental institutions soon after that. She ended up spending the largest part of her life incarcerated in one asylum or another without her family ever visiting her, including her mother. Moreover, after her death the majority of
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roc-2019
In Lucia, Alex Pheby is angry. The novel presents a hypothetical history of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s daughter, who was institutionalized in a psychic ward in 1951 until her death three decades later in 1982. All her correspondence was destroyed, so relatively little is known of her today, but the question remains: why was her voice silenced by the Joyce estate? Pheby offers a literary middle finger to the responsible parties, knowingly playing with fire, no pun intended, as he introduces vario ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"More unworthy thoughts; he would like as not save these girls from such a fate, if it was within his power." ...more
Jackie Law
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonathan Pool
Lucia is an excellent work of fiction, bringing structural inventiveness to a subject that has already been much discussed in the years since the events in question. Lucia’s life story has been dissected a number of times before Alex Pheby set to work. Much of what Pheby relates, and amplifies, and surmises, has previously been the subject of not dissimilar conjecture. Annabel Abbs The Joyce Girl (2016) received some adverse comment due to the assertions of family incest. I read swathes of Caro ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disturbing, brutal.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
Helen McClory
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brutal. Inventive with it. Spiky and compelling.
Marcus Hobson
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Well, what to make of this book?

I think we deserved some explanation of the Ba, the Ib and Shuyet. To know what these mean, early on, would have helped to make some sense of what was going on in the whole book. In ancient Egypt the soul was said to consist of five parts:
• Ren – the name given to a person at birth
• Shuyet – the person’s shadow or silhouette
• Ib – the metaphysical heart containing emotion and thought, key to the afterlife and essential to surviving death.
• Ba – personality, all th
James Kinsley
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite. Sometimes it is all too readily apparent when a book is touched by genius. At times beautiful, at times brutal, Lucia is never less than mesmerising, and though difficult to grasp, the story it alludes to more than tells is a powerful one, and the result is a breathtaking and powerful novel.
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Skillfully written yet too much misogyny made it less enjoyable. I'd prefer to hear Lucia's voice at least in one of the chapters. Rather dissapointed. ...more
I have feelings about this book, most of them not good. If not for my strong interest in literature about institutionalized people I would have bailed.

What did I like about the book? That through it I learned a bit about the life of Lucia Joyce, daughter of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle and sister of Giorgio. Aunt of Stephen Joyce, who burned all her letters and effects, adding a final act of erasure to a life that was already subtracted from the world through her forced, decades-long commitmen
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 o
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
A hard book to like. Modernist stylings, multiple perspectives and stream-of-consciousness and so on should be intellectually satisfying, yes, but they should also have some heart, and this book doesn't. It doesn't take long to 'get' what it's about, and once you do the novel itself does nothing to push you to continue reading. I'd hoped there would be more actual information about Lucia Joyce here, but this book adamantly rejects fact, and the 5 star reviews praise this, which suggests its favo ...more
Deborah Siddoway
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 ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Loved the parallel structure of the Egyptian archeology interlaced in to support the story BUT this book was dark and felt episodic. Didn’t get attached, didn’t want to get attached, sort of like Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm, I have changed change my rating of this book from 2 to 3 stars even though I really didn't enjoy it. I think part of the major problem with this book (even though I'm sure from a literary perspective it 'breaks boundaries' is that it is so very disjointed. I read another reviewer's post that said it was annoying that you had to have background knowledge of Lucia in order to read it. Well, yes I thoroughly agree.

It was also so far from what I was expecting. I had hoped and looked forward t
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk
This is one of those books that you wish you had someone to read alongside you and discuss. There is just so much to it and without proper study I am guessing most readers are going to miss a lot. It throws up so much food for thought - its structure, its subject matter (even down to whether Lucia Joyce should really be subject matter) and of course its many moral questions (the meaning of privacy, the incarceration, and subsequent treatment of women in asylums, the issue of growing up in the ki ...more
Feb 04, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get a sense of where this story is actually going, so I went to Goodreads to read the synopsis and it opened me up to an entirely different experience re-reading the snippets of scenes written in this book. The one that first introduced Lucia especially broke my heart and felt like a perfect introduction to her innocence and the conflicted life ahead of her. I can't wait to read this book in full. T.T♥

*I read an excerpt of this book on The Pigeonhole app as part of The Republic of Consc
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Alex Pheby is a British author and academic.

His latest book is Mordew, the first in a fantasy trilogy.

His second novel, Playthings, was described as “the best neuro-novel ever written" in Literary Review. The novel deals with the true case of Daniel Paul Schreber, a 19th-century German judge afflicted by schizophrenia who was committed to an asylum. In 2016, Playthings was shortlisted for the £30,

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