From Publishers Weekly
In 1957, The Lonely Doll
made model/actress turned author/photographer Dare Wright famous. The children's book told the story of Edith, a lonely doll until two teddy bears—a father and son—come to live with her. This dark and painfully poignant biography, tells the story of the beautiful and creative Dare (1914–2001), who was separated from her own father and brother when she was three. Alone with her strong-willed, manipulative mother, Edie, Dare strove to please her, Nathan writes, "playing handmaiden to Edie's queen as Edie created their own private universe" of dressup and pretend. Their closeness becomes increasingly disturbing, keeping Dare a child even as she matures into womanhood. There's a suggestion by some who knew them of a sexual element in the relationship, but Nathan is careful not to speculate. With Edie's death near the end of the book the story loses some of its clarity, because despite having many friends, Dare doesn't know how to live without her mother; the downward spiral of her final years is horrifying yet incomprehensible. But this is a quibble, and doesn't detract from the fascinating and elusive girl/woman at the center of this story. Photos.
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"Most artists lead idiosyncratic existences, but few are stranger than that of Dare Wright, a beautiful and poignantly lost soul. With painstaking resolve, Jean Nathan has captured this elusive creature and, with compassion and empathy, brought her back to life. Her biography of Wright is a haunting tale, skillfully told."
-- Mark Singer, Author of Somewhere in America and staff writer, The New Yorker
"Jean Nathan has given us a haunting portrait of a haunted and heartbreaking creative life. Here is proof, if ever any was needed, that the children's books that last are those born not of lovely thoughts but of childhood's innermost necessities."-Leonard S. Marcus, author of Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon
"Reads like a novel, and a Gothic one at that, full of outsized characters, an evocatively drawn backdrop, and with a strange and compelling mystery at its heart."-Meg Wolitzer, author of The Wife
"A beguiling piece of detective work, which itself makes for a kind of fairy tale."-Stacy Schiff, author of Vera
"Although I never read The Lonely Doll as a child or saw Dare Wright's photographs, it's as if somehow I did. Nathan has done an amazing job to capture Wright's life on the page and to bring us into the household of one of the saddest dysfunctional families ever."-Cindy Sherman
"An evocative, amazing biography."-Jacki Lyden, author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba