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Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  125 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The story of Oscar's flamboyant niece, Dolly Wilde (1895-1941) and the notorious literary salon in Paris that she and Natalie Barney established in the 1920s. The Academie des Femmes was a sort of literary circle comprising at one time or another Colette, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Romaine Brooks. It was often visited by men too - T.S. Elio ...more
Paperback, 457 pages
Published September 6th 2001 by Time Warner Books UK (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lord Beardsley
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Oscaraholics
I've returned to this book several times over the years. Ever since I first read this, I have been captivated by the life of Dolly Wilde and this book captured the personality of a person of who so few things are really known that I find that alone remarkable. She was fascinating and tragic. An artist of the spoken word who in another era might have become a public figure worshiped like Margaret Cho or other witty women. She was involved in the Natalie Clifford Barney salon of the 1920s in Paris ...more
Suzanne Stroh
This book about a fascinating life that went "noticed but unrecorded" gets five stars from me as a writer, on the merits of its bold, experimental structure and style which Dolly Wilde would have taken seriously. That shows a respect for the subject, combined with a gutsiness, that is to the biographer's credit.

As a reader, I rate it differently. This review explains why.

The biographer was clearly in service to the subject in a way much more profound than one reviewer here dismissed when calling
...more
Corinne Van
This is a weird, somewhat interesting, but mostly tedious and almost surreal book about Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wilde's niece. The author seems infatuated with her and has written hundreds of pages describing the possibilities of her wit and intellect where, in fact, she appears to have never done anything except run around with the fast crowd of Paris and London in the 20's, 30's—-oh and she was one of Natalie Barney's lovers—-in competition with Romaine Brooks—-so that's interesting, of course, but ...more
Jennybeast
Sep 28, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Joan Schenkar,

believe it or not, people who read biographies do anticipate a certain amount of imagining how things were. You don't need to tell us about it at length over and over again. The life of Dolly Wilde seems like it is full and fascinating -- lesbians, famous relatives, bewitching beauty and an unexplained death. How you've managed to make that boring is beyond me, but you sure did. Better luck next time.
Clelia
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected to love this book. I am obsessed with Oscar Wilde and was ecstatic to find out that he had a lesbian niece living in 1920s Paris. But Joan Schenkar is obviously not a non-fiction writer and ruins her account of this fascinating woman's life by indulging in flowery language, hyperbole, supposition, and jumbled, disorienting storytelling. Nonetheless, this book is still a valuable resource for any Wilde lover from the bits you can glean through the overwrought, over-long prose: the time ...more
Paul French
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
incredible story of Wilde's niece and the Natalie Barney salon in Paris between the wars
Patricia
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
While this book showed great promise initially, one soon grew tired of Dolly's attempts to out-Oscar Oscar. I found her extremely annoying after the first few chapters and was relieved when I entered Natalie Barney's inner circle. To be taken into this mysterious realm by the woman who had been Barney's cook and confidante for forty years is the best part of this book.

This is a big book, so is difficult to transport in one's handbag. However it could have been condensed into a 250 page paperbac
...more
Kate
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, Dolly Wilde; niece of Oscar, mainstay of the “lesbian salon scene” of interwar Paris, longtime lover of Natalie Barney… interesting woman!
But this biography! The author spends her first chapter explaining what exists in the historical record, 200 love letters to and from Natalie Barney, a few receipts, interviews with acquaintances, a postmortem and not much else, and then explains how she’d like to structure the biography. She wants it to be lively but does not want it to be a “novel in hid
...more
Nicole G.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Like most people, you have probably never heard of Dolly Wilde, born three months after Oscar's demise. Although she never met her uncle, she seems to have been much like him. Seems like she was an interesting figure to know, involved in Natalie Clifford Barney's historical salon, among other things. She was also a money-grubber and a drug addict, and died rather violently. What really happened to her? An intriguing read, nonetheless. If you like biographies about unusual people, you won't be di ...more
Harvey
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
- Dorothy "Dolly" Wilde (Oscar Wilde's niece) was intelligent, witty, and enchanting, dying exactly as she had lived: vividly, rather violently, and at a very good address. She attracted people of wealth, taste, and talent as she burned up her opportunities in flamboyant lesbian affairs and numerous addictions.
- "She seemed to be re-living the life of her infamous uncle.
- interesting biography of an interesting individual, unfortunately poorly written
Valeria
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book by mistake thinking it was about the famous Wilde. Although the writing is not great, it's easy to look past its deficiencies and be sympathetic and protective about the troubled Dolly Wilde. Not only is she an amazing "character" (fact and speculation blend seamlessly) that you want to get to know everything about, the people in her life were equally as interesting. Definitely worth reading.
Tina Lee
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who cares about Oscar Wilde's niece? Me, apparently. Great tour through the golden age of ex-pat Paris and the love affairs of rich and influential lesbians of the time. A nice, dishy context-filled bio.
Cynthia
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-longer-own
Somewhat repetitive and relies too much on speculation.
Lynne
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lesbian, biography
It does run in families. Interesting, confronting and ultimately very sad.
Aly
Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago but remember loving it and loving Dolly fiercely.
Allison Driskill
Though at times exasperatingly written and structured, the central story of Dolly's out-of-control life is entertaining and interesting.
Elizabeth
rated it it was amazing
Nov 28, 2016
Sonya-Jayne
rated it it was ok
Sep 30, 2014
Sara Soper
rated it liked it
Dec 06, 2015
Leesi
rated it really liked it
Nov 23, 2014
Maren
rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2017
Pat Franchi
rated it really liked it
Aug 27, 2012
Aleksandra Granatyr
rated it liked it
May 12, 2013
Mike Mills
rated it liked it
Mar 05, 2013
Maica
rated it it was ok
Oct 02, 2015
Molly
rated it did not like it
Jan 17, 2013
Nadine Currie
rated it it was amazing
Jul 26, 2017
Tnok
rated it really liked it
Feb 18, 2017
Holly
rated it really liked it
Jan 23, 2013
Julia
rated it it was ok
Jun 02, 2017
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JOAN SCHENKAR has been called "America's most original female contemporary playwright." TRULY WILDE, her biography of Oscar's interesting niece Dolly Wilde, was hailed as "a revelation, the great story of a life and of the creation of modern culture." THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH has already been acclaimed as the "definitive" Highsmith biography.

As a child actor in Seattle, Schenkar made many telev
...more
More about Joan Schenkar...

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