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Opal: A Life of Enchantment, Mystery, and Madness

3.5  ·  Rating details ·  66 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
In 1920 Americans were captivated by the childhood diary of Opal Whiteley, an enigmatic young woman from a small town in the Northwest. The diary, which chronicled adventures in the forests of Oregon at the age of seven, was hailed as a revelatory portrait of a child's relationship to God and the natural world. It became an overnight publishing sensation and Opal, then twe ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2003)
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Mark Drew
Feb 16, 2012 rated it liked it
If you have never heard of Opal Whiteley than this book will have little relevance for you. To want to read a book about the life of Opal pretty much requires that you bring to it at least a marginal pre-existing knowledge of either her or her famous diary. To approach the subject "cold" is probably not going to appeal to the casual reader except maybe in this case where one is a fan of the author's previous works.

This might have been the book that "explained" Opal Whiteley. The author appears t
...more
Emily Jones
I suspect this book could of been better, but it did lead me to find out more about the lovely & strange Opal Whiteley! So yay for that!
Kathy
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I've been fascinated by the story of Opal Whitely for a long time, and I have a first edition of her original diary. She must have been a fascinating woman, to have inspired so much interest and loyalty. Katherine Beck her unravels the mystery, as no one has done before, and this book is evidence of an enormous amount of research She explains the involvement of the various publishers and of previous biographers, and traces the story farther than previous authors. Sadly, the diary itself might ha ...more
Astraea
Feb 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who just want more info about Opal - it is well researched
Shelves: jay, reviewed
I have to go with Stephen Williamson's review at efn.org... "What we read is page after page of much the same thing; Opal was an ambitious, lying, crazy child who hated housework - and she died an ambitious, lying, crazy old woman who hated housework. Case closed. Beck seems to dismiss or ignore almost any information favorable to Opal while magnifying all of her flaws."

I think she did a huge amount of research but she disliked Opal, and applied her findings to her subject in a way so as to pres
...more
Chana
Opal Whiteley, despite the fame she continues to have among her fans, Opalites, was a very sad character.
She grew up in Oregon, her father worked in lumber camps, one of 5 children. Their mother was mentally unstable, the father was often absent. Opal was small, dark, charming, intelligent, had an astounding memory, and was mentally unstable herself. She was a young Christian volunteer and showed a great skill in getting people to participate in the organization she was involved in. But really
...more
Kristy
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The life of Opal Whitely is bizarrely fascinating no matter how you look at it: either she was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke D'Orleans who was smuggled to Oregon at the turn of the century and given to a lumberjack's family to raise in obscurity and safety, then abused by that family only to eventually make her name as a nature expert and author and then publish a childhood diary that had been torn to pieces by one of her jealous "sisters" and after its publication learn the truth of her ...more
Lizzie
In 1920, The Story of Opal was published, supposedly the childhood diary of Opal Whitely, who'd grown up in a small town in Oregon. She describes nature and animals in a way people either find endearing or twee (I'm in the latter group) and it became a best seller. It was soon dismissed as a hoax, written by Opal as an adult and tailored to sell to readers who were looking for a return to childhood innocence in the wake of WWI. In the 70s, Ms. published some of the diary in the "Stories for Free ...more
Mandi
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Woah. This was definitely an interesting look at quite a character. I was intrigued enough to do some outside research on opal throughout the book. I've also heard that this biography is quite controversial among Opalites. I was annoyed by its haphazard organization and lack of ANY AND ALL FOOTNOTES OR CITATIONS. This book left me with a very particular bias about Opal and her diary-- which I haven't yet read. I'm anxious to read other works by Jane (someone) and Benjamin Hoff in order to get a ...more
Holly
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was not initially taken with the book as I had no idea why someone would write about this person. It would have been helpful if somewhere at the start, the purpose of the book might have a clue. I continued to read the biography and things unfolded. This was well researched, and though at times it seems the author had an intense dislike and wanted to paint Opal in a bad light, overall, I think it was truthful and carefully constructed. I would recommend it as a good book to read as a book club ...more
Moodyfeline
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Okay, I really enjoyed the first part of this book, maybe about 1/3 of it. After a point I realized I was done with the story, even if the book wasn't over.
Linda
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about a writer of a mysterious diary and whether it contained the truth or was the ravings of a mad woman.
John
Mar 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Opal was my grandmothers nanny for a few years. This is a fascinating and very mysterious story.
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