This is the book I wrote about in this post. I picked it up from the library this afternoon and have just finished reading it, several hours later. That’s not as surprising as it sounds; it’s a young adult book, and I’ve read it before, perhaps 10 or 15 times before, if I’m remembering correctly.
This volume, from the Reedsburg, Wisconsin public library, was the only copy in the whole South Central Wisconsin library system, a system of 52 libraries. It’s a 1966 version published by Atheneum, and it has in the back the original library checkout card with due dates back to 1967. It’s probably identical to the version I read (over and over again) from the Haddonfield, New Jersey public library. I certainly recognize the illustrations, if not the orange cover. I don’t imagine anyone has checked it out in a long time.
My friend Anne, writing in the comments, remembers this book also, and how creepy she found it. But I have to say it isn’t nearly as creepy as I remember. It’s more sad, and poignant. Nina, age 12, newly released from a displaced persons camp, sent to live with her aunt in Wales after the death of her parents at the hands of the Nazis, has horrible nightmares that she attributes to the influence of Dido, the evil doll. But reading the story from the vantage point of the 21st century it’s easy to see that Nina is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition common among holocaust survivors and the children of survivors. It’s interesting that Ruth Arthur came up with this in the mid-1960’s.
In a lot of ways this book is very standard-issue mid-century YA fare. People conveniently inherit money exactly when they need it, and they die painlessly of mysterious wasting diseases. They even contact each other through the personal ads! But in other ways it’s a unique look at three generations of women and girls and how they confront their demons and take control of their lives. I’m really glad I rediscovered it.
(Book 1, 2010)