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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll



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About The Author

Jean Nathan

Jean Nathan graduated from 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, and other... More

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Discussion Questions

1. Why did Dare Wright never rebel or in any way try to loosen or escape her mother's grip on her? How might Dare’s story have been different if she had taken her friend's advice and gone on to college as did so many of her classmates at the Laurel School?

2. Why is it too simple to view Edith Stevenson Wright as a monster?

3. For those familiar with Dare Wright's books for children, how does knowing Dare Wright's personal story cause you to rethink her books?

4. In many ways, Dare Wright's story is so much of its time. Dare's parents divorce in 1919, for example, came at a time when divorce was quite uncommon. Dare's mother Edie felt disgraced by this. A woman today would not need to feel such a sense of shame. Also, far fewer women were the sole support of their family. Could this story happen today?

5. Dare and Blaine's parallel stories are reminiscent of what is said about twins separated at birth, even though they were, in fact, separated at ages three and five. Both siblings never had sustained intimate relationships, neither married, both hid from the world to a large extent. What forces were at work that this should be so?

6. Why could Edie and her son never reconcile?

7. Why could Dare never bring herself to any real intimacy with a man? And why could Blaine never do that with a woman?

8. The mother-daughter relationship between Edie and Dare was extreme. Are there other stories in literature and film that relate?

9. Dare was exceptionally cut off from her feelings, or found ways to bury them. How did Dare's alcoholism transform her—beyond the obvious ways?

10. How would the experience and impact of this book have been different without the photographs that document every period of Dare Wright's life?

11. By including her own story in the book's epilogue, the author explains why The Lonely Doll was so important to her as a child. Do you think the author did well to add in this part?

12. What are some of the books from your childhood that haunt you or had as powerful a hold on you as The Lonely Doll had on Jean Nathan?

13. What do you think Edie Wright would have thought of this book? And Dare?

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