Judy's Reviews > The Velveteen Daughter

The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
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it was amazing

I was fascinated to read this biographically driven novel that centers on Pamela Bianco, an artistic child prodigy who began drawing professional-level illustrations by the age of 8, as well as her mother, Margery Williams Bianco, the author of two dozen well-regarded children's books, including the classic "The Velveteen Rabbit."

As is often the case in life, a superabundance of creative talent is often counterbalanced by a lack of emotional stability, which was certainly the case with Pamela Bianco. Anxiety and depression hampered Bianco's life, often for many years at a time. The novel is structured by very short chapters written alternately by Pamela and Margery, showing the reader both views of some of the transformative events in Pamela's life.

The author, Laurel Huber, has done an extraordinary amount of research for this book. Based on archives, letters, newspaper records, and the artistic footprints of both mother and daughter, she brings to life the world of the Biancos, seemingly glamorous (they interacted with Pablo Picasso, Eugene O'Neill, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney) yet underneath, simmering with worry and stress due to Pamela's increasing instability, and her father's expectation that she continue to produce the kind of art that had rocketed her to fame in her early childhood.

Her father, bookseller Francesco Bianca, had instantly recognized his daughter's remarkable talent
and brought her earliest works (some done at age 6) to a gallery. By the age of 12 Pamela had solo exhibitions in European art galleries. Francesco was clearly a"stage mother," and Margery writes of her misgivings about her husband pushing their daughter into a world she could not possibly be ready for.

At times I felt the story dragged a bit; there was, for me, too much from Pamela about her obsession with love interest Diccon, who later became the successful writer known as Richard Hughes. And given Margery's own prolific publishing credits, I wish there had been more of her thoughts about her work and what it meant to her, especially as a refuge from Pamela's draining emotional problems. Margery also doesn't write as much as I would have wanted about her marriage; clearly, she loved her husband, but there had to have been conflict over his having pushed their daughter so early to be seen as a "professional" and Margery's better sense that a child needed a real childhood.

Still, Huber's achievement is really wonderful, and overall the story moves compellingly. The inclusion of some family photos, reproductions of some of Pamela's work, and careful explanation of what was real and what was fictionalized were important and satisfying additions.
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Reading Progress

February, 2019 – Started Reading
March, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 28, 2019 – Shelved

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