Saving Lucia: Psychiatric flight of fictional fancy

Anna Vaught’s novel of birds, words and Joyce’s daughter soars imaginatively

Violet Gibson, daughter of Baron Ashbourne: features alongside Lucia Joyce in Anna Vaught’s novel set in a psychiatric hospital.

Violet Gibson, daughter of Baron Ashbourne: features alongside Lucia Joyce in Anna Vaught’s novel set in a psychiatric hospital.

The pages of Saving Lucia are so joyous and full of life that they seem about to flap away. Reading Anna Vaught’s third novel is akin to catching your first glimpse of London’s parakeets. It produces a similar sense of wonderment and disorientation – a feral flash of exotic technicolour splashed across a monochrome canvas.

The seed for this “more-or-less true story” – as the narrator calls it – was planted when Vaught discovered that Violet Gibson and Lucia Joyce had both been inmates of St Andrew’s, a psychiatric hospital in Northampton. History does not say whether the two Irish women ever met, but then this is a book about awaking from its nightmare, not replicating it.

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