Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Children's Book Evil Doll

When I was around 12 years old I read a book that haunted me for years; indeed thinking of it right now still gives me shivers. It was a book about a malevolent doll that brought danger and destruction to each of several girls who owned her. This book put me off dolls for good, if I hadn’t already abandoned them, yet I know I reread it several times, and really loved it. I remember that it was complex, and beautifully written, in addition to being really scary. Sometimes (even now) this book pops into my head, and I give my head a little shake to dislodge the creepy feeling from my brain.

This morning something reminded me of the book while I was sitting at my computer, so I typed these four words into Google: “children’s book evil doll.” It took only a few hits to discover that the book is A Candle in her Room, by Ruth Arthur. It was seeing a reference to the doll’s name, Dido, that made me remember for certain.

A Candle in her Room was published in Britain in 1966 then again in the U.S. in 1972, but has been out of print for years. Several of the Google hits were links to Amazon and Goodreads and I looked at them to see if anyone had posted reviews of it. Amazon has 17 reviews and the thing that most strikes me is how many people talk about what a lasting impression the book made on them. Here are some quotes:
It's a fascinating read for a kid, full of drama and magic and scares…I'm an adult and I still remember the book.

I first read this book nearly 30 years ago and can still remember it vividly.

Never, before or since, have I read a book which affected me the way this one did. I remember it in almost uncanny detail.

I memorised the first and final lines of the book and can you believe - I still know them.

And here’s one more from Goodreads: “I never looked at dolls the same way again.”

I see that Ruth Arthur wrote several other books for young women and several of them sound familiar, especially Requiem for a Princess, but I can’t really say for certain whether I read them or not. Certainly none had the impact on me that A Candle in her Room did. Alibris and Abebooks offer used copies in the neighborhood of $45, and my library system has one copy, which I’ve requested. What a wonderful writer Ruth Arthur must have been, to create a book about which so many people formed such strong memories.

10 comments:

Caroline said...

I too read this as a child and it stayed with me.I attempted to buy a copy for my own children but the cost was just too much. What a shame this book is no longer in print.

I read at least one other book by the same author which was also gripping, it had the word 'candlemas' in the title.

williamson.anne said...

I read it, too! The name Dido will always be slightly creepy to me. (Sorry, Vergil)

Callista said...

With as many dolls as there are around my house I have no interest in scaring myself by reading about evil dolls but it is pretty cool that you remember it so well and so do others.

lin_duhh said...

i also read this book, many times, when i was about 10. like you, it has always come back to me in bits and pieces, giving me goosebumps and staying in my subconscious sometimes for days. that's an amazing book, in my estimation, to bring such unease back after almost 40 years.

lin_duhh said...

i'm curious - do you - or anyone else - also remember the book "The Forgotten Door"?

Lori said...

My 9 year old daughter asked me my favorite book from childhood, after quick reflecting, "A Candle in Her Room" was retrieved from memory. Beautiful depth and complexity for the young reader.

Anonymous said...

I also read this book as a child. I checked it out from the library many times. After 30 years, I had to track it down again and buy a used copy. It's still as compelling now that I am an adult. Glad to see I'm not the only one who remembered it so vividly.

Anonymous said...

How strange, a friend has just posted a picture of an old doll she found at a junk stall.. I took one look and though omg its Dido...that is 33 years after i read the book. I was also 12 and have never forgotten reading it...

Laura said...

I can't believe I found this post! This was the book that made the single deepest impression on me as a child (and I read a LOT). I always remembered it, and how creepy and upsetting I found it. Years ago, I found a used copy online and am only now reading it aloud with my friend and daughters, who are all loving it too. (I wasn't brave enough to re-read it without support!) Unlike most other people who've commented, I didn't remember the plot very well at all, just how scary it was. We'll be finishing it soon.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I never finished reading this book. I was about 10 when I checked it out from the school library, and found myself too frightened to read it all the way to the end. I think that I got 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through. I never could remember the name of the book, though. It still haunts me, and I never even knew how it ended.

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