Summary and book reviews of The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Huber

The Velveteen Daughter

by Laurel D. Huber

The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel D. Huber X
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel D. Huber
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    Jul 2017, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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About this Book

Book Summary

The Velveteen Daughter reveals for the first time the true story of two remarkable women: Margery Williams Bianco, the author of one of the most beloved children's books of all time - The Velveteen Rabbit - and her daughter Pamela, a world-renowned child prodigy artist whose fame at one time greatly eclipses her mother's.

But celebrity at such an early age exacts a great toll. Pamela's dreams elude her as she struggles with severe depressions, an overbearing father, an obsessive love affair, and a spectacularly misguided marriage. Throughout, her life raft is her mother.

The glamorous art world of Europe and New York in the early 20th century and a supporting cast of luminaries - Eugene O'Neill and his wife Agnes (Margery's niece), Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and Richard Hughes, author of A High Wind in Jamaica - provide a vivid backdrop to the Biancos' story. From the opening pages, the novel will captivate readers with its multifaceted and illuminating observations on art, family, and the consequences of genius touched by madness.

THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER

***

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day…. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept…."
From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

September 1, 1944

9 Livingston Place, Stuyvesant Square
New York City

Late Morning

MARGERY

It's a lost day, I'm afraid. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. is the relationship between Pamela and Margery? Do you find it problematical? What about the relationship between Pamela and Francesco?
  2. How does Pamela's illness manifest itself? When does it begin? Do you think it was inevitable (simply inherited), or do you think it had to do with circumstances in her life? What was the cause of her breakdown?
  3. Do you agree with Margery's decision to allow Francesco take charge of their young prodigy daughter? Did she reconcile herself to her decision? What do you think you would have done?
  4. What is your opinion about Agnes and Eugene O'Neill? What effect did the O'Neills and their relationship have on Pamela?
  5. Do What role does the classic children's book The Velveteen Rabbit ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

[T]his could easily have [been] a very sad or even depressing novel – it did feel somewhat morose to me, and I could have used a touch more of the lighter passages to dispel that – but Huber still instills it with quite a bit of hope, thereby sidestepping a fully negative atmosphere. Her focus on art, and real artists like Picasso, instill the story with interesting historical context as well. Even so, a lack of enough emotional variety, combined with some passages that I feel could have been shortened (such as the story about their cousin Agnes and her troubled marriage to O'Neil), are the reasons why I can't give this novel a full five stars.   (Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

Full Review (602 words).

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Media Reviews

ForWard Reviews
Huber's richly textured language is a wonder to behold, her prose every bit as luminous, inspired, and wise as either Bianco's or Williams's own work.

Bookstalker
The Velveteen Rabbit was a beautifully tender children's story, and after reading this gorgeous novel about the author Margery Williams and her gifted daughter Pamela the children's tale has come to mean much more. Being real hurts terribly. Laurel Davis Huber has taken the true story of mother and daughter and fictionalized it but with precision, following facts so much that she seems to be channeling the entire family. From the beginning pages I was already hooked...Add this to your summer reading list!

The Literature Quilter
...compelling and affecting... has great emotional appeal.

Booklist
Combining the elegance of literary fiction with realistic period atmosphere and an emotional openness reminiscent of personal memoirs, the prose is entirely immersive…compelling read.

Kirkus Reviews
Huber's reliance on primary sources, coupled with her luminous prose, creates an unforgettable sojourn into the lives of early 20th-century artists. ...fast-paced and difficult to put down.

Author Blurb Gloria Vanderbilt
"The Velveteen Daughter seamlessly weaves fiction into reality, and reality into fiction, quickly merging to become one truth that vividly reveals Bianco's secret heart. This book is not only mesmerizing to read but of great importance, bringing Pamela Bianco as an artist to find her rightful place in the history of art.

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Beyond the Book

Child Prodigies in Visual Art

When we hear the phrase "child prodigy," our minds almost automatically go to Mozart and other musicians, and from there, towards young geniuses in the areas of mathematics and science. One of the shorter lists of child prodigies is in the visual arts: drawing, painting and sculpture. But the world has witnessed some exceptional artistic talent in young people although, for the most part, only collectors and museum curators know their names. Among them is Pamela Bianco, the titular subject of Laurel Davis Huber's novel, The Velveteen Daughter. Here are some other child prodigy artists:

PicadorCertainly, the most famous of all artists I found on lists of child prodigies is Pablo Picasso, who appears in Huber's book. According to an article in ...

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