The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll by Jean Nathan
The Search for Dare Wright

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A glamorous, haunted life unfolds in the mesmerizing biography of the woman behind a classic children's book

In 1957, a children's book called The Lonely Doll was published. With its pink-and-white-checked cover and photographs featuring a wide-eyed doll, it captured the imaginations of young girls and made the author, Dare Wright, a household name.

Close to forty years after its publication, the book was out of print but not forgotten. When the cover image inexplicably came to journalist Jean Nathan one afternoon, she went in search of the book-and ultimately its author. Nathan found Dare Wright living out her last days in a decrepit public hospital in Queens, New York.

Over the next five years, Nathan pieced together a glamorous life. Blond, beautiful Wright had begun her career as an actress and model and then turned to fashion photography before stumbling upon her role as bestselling author. But there was a dark side to the story: a brother lost in childhood, ill-fated marriage plans, a complicated, controlling mother. Edith Stevenson Wright, herself a successful portrait painter, played such a dominant role in her daughter's life that Dare was never able to find her way into the adult world. Only through her work could she speak for herself: in her books she created the happy family she'd always yearned for, while her self-portraits betrayed an unresolved tension between sexuality and innocence, a desire to belong and painful isolation.

Illustrated with stunning photographs, The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll tells the unforgettable story of a woman who, imprisoned by her childhood, sought to set herself free through art.


About Jean Nathan

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Jean Nathan was educated at Williams College and the Columbia School of Journalism. She was a staff writer for The New York Observer and a senior editor at Connoisseur magazine. She has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Travel & Leisure, Vogue, ARTNews, and other publications. She lives in New York City.
Published May 17, 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

Kirkus Reviews

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Dare Wright died at age 86 in a state nursing home on Roosevelt Island.That was in 2001—44 years after the publication of The Lonely Doll launched her popular (and exceedingly weird) children’s book series.

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The New York Times

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''No matter which way she went,'' Nathan writes, Dare Wright ''would be devoured -- either by loneliness or by Edie's wrath -- if she were to align herself with a man.'' Instead, she aligned herself with Edie, becoming part of ''Edie-Dare,'' as her mother signed letters.

Dec 05 2004 | Read Full Review of The Secret Life of the Lonely...

Publishers Weekly

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In 1957, The Lonely Doll made model/actress turned author/photographer Dare Wright famous.

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Book Reporter

First published in 1957, with its pink and white gingham cover, this book featured photographs of a little blond-haired doll named Edith, and it put its author, Dare Wright, on the map.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Secret Life of the Lonely...


After Wright's death in 2001, Nathan unravels the story of the writer's relationship with a crushingly narcissistic mother—an artist who had abandoned Wright emotionally but shared a bed with her until she died in 1975.

Oct 04 2004 | Read Full Review of The Secret Life of the Lonely...

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