WHEN LUCIA JOYCE. only daughter of James Joyce, threw a chair at her mother, Nora, during her father's fiftieth birthday party in Paris in February 1932, she took the first step in her own 'dance of death'. Her brother Giorgio committed her to a maison de santi. Released, she found a new outlet for her rage and jealousy, cutting the telephone wires of the family flat as Joyce's friends called to congratulate him on winning the American obscenity case against Ulysses, a verdict that allowed the book to be published in the USA. In August 1934, after seven months' incarceration in an asylum, Lucia greeted her parents by setting fire to the tablecloth in her confinement room. The 'Prankquean', one of the characters in her father's work Lucia seemed to personify, had leapt from her liminal position in the Joyce family into the foreground. Henceforth Lucia would dance as 'Milly, Issy, the Rainbow Girl, the child before the cracked looking-glass not of schizophrenia but of her father's art', contributing to the creative dynamic between the author of Finnegans Wake and his 'daughter-wife', for whose broken life the Wake was Joyce's own act of atonement.
The story of Joyce and Lucia, 'one of the great love stories of the twentieth century', according to Carol Loeb Shloss, 'changed the face of modern literature'. It is a bold claim to make, but in this moving and ground-breaking biography Shloss makes