The Joyce Girl

The Joyce Girl tells the fictionalised story of Lucia Joyce’s affairs with a young Samuel Beckett and then a young Alexander Calder in 1920s Paris. The only daughter of Irish author, James Joyce, and Nora Barnacle, Lucia aspires to be a modern dancer. Talented and ambitious, she trains with many of the most gifted dancers of her time. But when Samuel Beckett begins working for her father, Lucia falls deeply 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 Joyces’ lives begin to unravel, destroying Lucia’s dreams and foiling her attempts to escape the shadow of her genius father. The novel switches between 1928 and 1934 as Lucia retells her story to pioneering psychoanalyst, Doctor Carl Jung.

 

Inspired by a meticulously researched true story, The Joyce Girl is a compelling and moving account of thwarted ambition, rejection and the destructive love of a father.

Described by the literary editor of The Observer, as “a hugely impressive debut. Annabel Abbs has brought to life an extraordinary cast of characters and painted their rickety, bohemian world in vivid technicolour.”  And by author, Emma Darwin, as “a little-known story at the heart of one of the twentieth century’s most astonishing creative moments…researched deeply and brought to richly-imagined life.”

The Joyce Girl was published by Impress in the UK (June 2016), after winning the Impress Prize for New Writing.  It went to auction in Australia/New Zealand where it was published by Hachette in September 2016. In 2017 it was published by Aufbau Verlag in Germany, Galaxia Gutenberg in Spain/South America, and Hep Kitap in Turkey. In 2019 it will be published by HarperCollins in the US, Centrepolygraph in Russia, Wydawnichtwo in Poland and EMAS Publishing in Bulgaria. It was a Reader’s Pick 2016 in The Guardian and was longlisted for the 2017 Waverton Good Read Award. It was chosen from 130 books, as one of 11 to feature at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, and is currently being produced for the stage.

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Reviews

“Here is a powerful portrait of a woman yearning to be an artist, whose passion for life – and rage at being unable to fulfil her talent – burns from the pages.” Anita Sethi, The Guardian (read full review here)

“A thrill… fantastic fiction.” iBook of the Month Review (September, Australia)

“This intimate and absolutely splendid novel must top my recommendations as the best 20th-century fiction of the year.” Historical Novel Society, ‘Editor’s Choice’ (November)  (full review here)

“Abbs handles the parabola of this real life story with tremendous assurance.” Readers Pick their Books of the Year, The Guardian(December 2016)

“Avant-garde Paris…bursts onto the page in this gripping fictionalisation of an extraordinary life.” Who Weekly (Australia.)

“Five stars for adaptability” The Hollywood Reporter.Full review here.

“A gripping story of growing up with a genius father…well-written and fascinating.” Otago Daily Times (NZ)

“Poignant and absorbing… you’ll like this book if you enjoy thoughtful, historical fiction that transports you to another time and place.” Women’s Weekly Australia (Book of the Week)

“Here is Lucia Joyce, vibrant, passionate and alive, telling her own story … Annabel Abbs has crafted a moving tale of thwarted ambition and personal tragedy.” Mary Talbot, author of Costa Biography Award 2012 winner, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes

The Joyce Girl is one of those hidden gems of a novel that is deserving of a far wider audience. It is well-researched, well-written and a fascinating story that will be unknown to many readers. Lucia Joyce’s life is a worthy subject and readers who pick up the novel will not be disappointed – I cannot recommend it enough. 5/5.” Judith Griffith, New Books Magazine (full review here)

“Funny, clever, tragic, poignant…” Woman’s Weekly

“Abbs shows great affection for Lucia in her debut novel, sympathetically re-imagining her … striving to bring her own artistic expression to life through dance.” Irish Times

“A harrowing story of stifled female creativity and desire…already attracting rave reviews.” Shepparton News

‘Top Pick’ in Cosmopolitan (Nov. 2016, Aus.)

“This is a hugely impressive debut. Annabel Abbs has brought to life an extraordinary cast of characters – Joyce, Beckett et al – and painted their rackety, bohemian world in vivid technicolour” Lisa O’Kelly, literary editor, The Observer

“A captivating debut about love, creativity, and living in the shadow of genius. Annabel Abbs recreates the extraordinary story of Lucia Joyce – James Joyce’s daughter and gifted dancer in her own right – in language as sensuous and richly alive as Lucia’s dancing.”  Louisa Treger, author of The Lodger

“Abbs writes with great compassion yet somehow manages to remain detached, which gives the book an added poignancy. This is a new writer of great freshness and originality who comes to the page with none of the mantras prescribed by so many creative writing classes.” Sussex Express

The Joyce Girl is ambitious, insightful and fascinating on so many levels…A stunning insight into some great literary minds.” Susan Heads, The Booktrail www.thebooktrail.com

The Joyce Girl is a mesmerising story with characters that leap off the page. Brilliantly written and so authentically imagined it left me wiping my tears and utterly reluctant to abandon Lucia. A masterpiece!” Lyn G. Farrell, author of prize-winning novel, The Wacky Man.

“Abbs has done an enormous amount of research …Abbs’ graceful storytelling and her acute understanding of her subject draws us on…” Stuff . More here.

“I really enjoyed this book – a fantastic debut about a fascinating character.” Dorothynada.com. More here.

“I enjoyed this story very much…a very easy to read style…a wonderful sense of those times, people and places.” www.audiothing.blogspot.co.uk

“A luminous affecting new novel …it is both accomplished and very brave.” Sussex Life

“The Joyce Girl is a breathtakingly beautiful novel; it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.  I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.” Rather Too Fond of Books, Top Ten Book of 2016 (full review here)

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in history. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in literature. The Joyce Girl is a story that invades your soul and stays there. In the time since I read The Joyce Girl I have found it impossible to forget. It haunts my thoughts and I think it isn’t too dramatic to say it has had a profound effect on my life. The Joyce Girl is, quite simply, stunning.” Linda’s Book Bag, Top Twenty Book of 2016 (full review here.)

“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.” Reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk 

“Abbs shows great affection for Lucia in her debut novel, sympathetically re-imagining her … striving to bring her own artistic expression to life through dance.” Irish Times

“A harrowing story of stifled female creativity and desire …already attracting rave reviews.” Shepparton News

‘Top Pick’ in Cosmopolitan (Nov. 2016, Aus.)

“An examination of slow descent into insanity.” Canberra Times 

“A luminous affecting new novel …it is both accomplished and very brave.” Sussex Life

“Abbs writes with great compassion yet somehow manages to remain detached, which gives the book an added poignancy. This is a new writer of great freshness and originality.” Sussex Express

The Joyce Girl is ambitious, insightful and fascinating on so many levels…A stunning insight into some great literary minds.” Susan Heads, The Booktrail www.thebooktrail.com

“Abbs has done an enormous amount of research … Abbs’ graceful storytelling and her acute understanding of her subject draws us on…” Stuff . More here.

“Five stars for adaptability.” The Hollywood Reporter. Full review here.

“The Joyce Girl is a breathtakingly beautiful novel; it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.  I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.” Rather Too Fond of Books, Top Ten Book of 2016 (full review here)

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in history. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in literature. The Joyce Girl is a story that invades your soul and stays there. In the time since I read The Joyce Girl I have found it impossible to forget. It haunts my thoughts and I think it isn’t too dramatic to say it has had a profound effect on my life. The Joyce Girl is, quite simply, stunning.” Linda’s Book Bag, Top Twenty Book of 2016 (full review here.)

“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.” Reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk 

“An incredibly feeling and insightful glimpse into a previously overlooked yet significant life, The Joyce Girl is an emotional read that has left me curious to learn more about Lucia Joyce and with a new approach to Joyce’s works. A must-read for anyone interested in Irish literature or the elusive figure of Lucia, this feeling novel is one of the most interesting books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in 2016.”  www.foodforbookworms.com

“Annabel Abbs is an amazing writer …this book should not be missed.” Gems Book Nook NZ

“From the beginning to the end The Joyce Girl is an enchanting tale, beautifully written. It drew me in and wouldn’t let go; I was caught and trapped right up to the epilogue.” Compulsive Reader (full review here.)

“A cohesive and compelling account of Lucia’s Life.” Culture Fly

“Enthralling. It captured my imagination with its charm and energy… truly an impressive debut.” Lit Nerd

“Annabel’s writing style creates the perfect atmosphere…the settings, the time and the place feel very real.  The rainbow dance gave me goosebumps – so beautiful and inspiring.  There’s absolutely no doubt how much Annabel immersed herself because it’s here in her beautifully crafted story.” www.jerasjamboree.co.uk (full review here.)

“Lucia captivated me from the very first page…Beautifully written, compassionate… startling and heartbreaking too. The Joyce Girl is a wonderfully fictionalised account of a young girl who was pushed to her limit in life and has been pushed to the background after her death.” www.randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk (full review here.)

“A haunting piece of historical fiction.” The Mitford Society (full review here.)

“It’s believable, and more than that, enriched with detail which brings the story to life. Without a doubt, The Joyce Girl gets a 5/5 from me. You need to go and read it.” www.readbyjess.blogspot.co.uk

“A startlingly well-written debut …an historical fiction unlike any other you may read.” Joy Isabella (full review here.)

“This absolute genius debut…a beautifully told story.” Swirl and Thread. Full review here.

“The Joyce Girl is a fascinating portrait of a talented young woman destroyed by a patriarchal society intent on containing her and when it seems she can’t be contained, labelling her mentally unstable and imprisoning her within asylum walls…. Abbs has created a convincing portrayal of a young woman virtually erased from history. It’s infuriating and heart breaking in equal measure.” Writes of Women

“Abbs brings the world of avant-garde Paris … to life.” Viva Lewes

“It is difficult to believe that this is a debut novel for Abbs, who has created a sympathetic and powerful portrait of a young woman’s gradual descent into insanity in prose that is so rich and imagery laden that it seems the perfect vehicle for her story. It is also an extremely gripping read, which is not often the case with such a literary work. She has clearly done her research for she brings alive an extraordinary cast of characters and recreates the sense of the bohemian world of Paris in the 1920’s with great vividness.” TripFiction

“I really enjoyed this book – a fantastic debut about a fascinating character.” Dorothynada.com. More here.

“I enjoyed this story very much…a very easy to read style…a wonderful sense of those times, people and places.” www.audiothing.blogspot.co.uk

“This is a really interesting story… The era is well evoked and the characters are all deftly created…The men are described cleverly and with subtle phrases as soft as the sweep of an artist’s paintbrush… Quite mesmerising and I would recommend… particularly for fans of Paula McClain.” Biblomaniac. Full review here.

“This book left me stunned that it was a debut novel. It’s eloquently written, impeccably well-researched and executed in a way that reeled me in from the first line and has left the characters wandering about in my head ever since….I loved how Abbs wrote the complex character of Lucia in such a beautiful way that I was kept constantly rooting for her throughout the book, captivated by every moment in this mesmerising novelisation of Lucia Joyce’s life.”  The Cosy Reader. Full review here.

“In her novel, Abbs breathes life into Lucia … Her writing is full of the rich sensual atmosphere of 1920s Paris and she provides a new insight into the world of the Joyce family…We finally get to hear Lucia’s anger, as well as her joy and ambitions. In her story lies the forgotten narratives of so many more nameless women born in the wrong time, living with the wrong men.” Open Democracy (full review here.)

“This is a lovely (if utterly tragic) novel and one that I do absolutely recommend. The writing is wonderful and the story is heartbreaking.” Lit Addicted Brit

“I would recommend this to anyone looking for a novel in the genre of historical fiction 4.5/5”  Anna’s Book Corner

“Extremely well written and well-researched.” The Book Date. Full review here.

“A gorgeous satisfying novel”  My Fave 2016 Reads. Full review here.

“Well worth the read.” The Book Muse. Full review here.

“This book is a must read… beautifully written and very enjoyable.” Love Books Group

“Abbs is an incredibly talented writer, her powerful, beautiful and subtle writing style made me care about a woman I knew nothing about.” Keeper of Pages

“A captivating debut about love, creativity, and living in the shadow of genius. Annabel Abbs recreates the extraordinary story of Lucia Joyce – James Joyce’s daughter and gifted dancer in her own right – in language as sensuous and richly alive as Lucia’s dancing.”  Louisa Treger, author of The Lodger

The Joyce Girl is a mesmerising story with characters that leap off the page. Brilliantly written and so authentically imagined it left me wiping my tears and utterly reluctant to abandon Lucia. A masterpiece!” Lyn G. Farrell, author of prize-winning novel, The Wacky Man.

My interview on ABC Radio Books & Arts programme (on Lucia Joyce) here.

My interview in Litro here.

You can hear me discussing James Joyce here.

You can hear me discussing Lucia Joyce on ABC Radio Books & Arts here.

Or here (ignore the opening minute when they lost me!)

You can hear a podcast of me talking about the difficulties of writing about Lucia Joyce, at Shakespeare & Co (Paris), here.

You can read about some of the books that built me here.