DOLLY VARDON is the true story of an orphan girl’s struggle to survive 19th century London and Paris. Born in Mary-le-bone Workhouse and left as a newborn in a Soho ‘baby farm,’ Dolly told her daughters of her life as an orphan: dancing in the streets to the music of the hurdy-gurdy men, begging, stealing and the dark side of Victorian England – one of the most horrendous eras of prostitution in the modern world.
A chance encounter brings Dolly – poorest of the poor – together with the wealthy publisher, Harry Sidney Nichols, uncrowned king of Victorian and Edwardian clandestine erotica, books of every know variety of sexual diversion and perversion – at a time when publishing and selling erotica is highly illegal. This unlikely couple is bound by Harry’s fetish – the foot and shoe. Pulling herself up by her tiny bootstraps, Dolly becomes Harry’s greatest treasure. Harry buys Dolly to be his teenage ‘ward,’ introducing her to a world of luxury she could not have imagined. But there is a price. And it haunts Dolly through three generations of a dysfunctional family saga.
“Holden delves into his family’s secrets in a sweeping, novelistic biography spanning continents and generations… vividly recreates the cities of London, Paris and New York City through the decades… Dolly’s tale is one of success and tragedy, and Holden’s biography honors the resilience of a young women who rose out of the slums, charmed and bribed her way… and reinvented herself as a successful businesswoman. With clear-eyed candor, this biography brings a family’s extraordinary matriarch to life.” [Kirkus Reviews]
4 1/2 stars Amazon “…heart-wrenching…” “written with sly wit and immeasurable sensitivity… …not for the faint of heart…”
4 1/2 stars Goodreads “…One of my favourite books this year.” “…inspiring…” “…heart-wrenching…” “…fast paced…”
“…disgusting…” “…horrible…” “…couldn’t put it down.”
ISBN 9781490457291 447pp published August 2013 DOLLY VARDON is available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle version.