Aug 19

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

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I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.  All thoughts are my own.  This post contains affiliate links. 

the dollhouse

The Dollhouse

by Fiona Davis

Publication date: 8/23/16


Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950’s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.


My review:

I had heard little tidbits here and there about The Barbizon and was intrigued.  What was this “hotel” where women lived in the 1950’s?  Was it chaperoned?  It seemed a bit strange in New York City, as this was where young adults went to be free.  The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis seemed to have the answers to the questions I had.

While we do learn some details about the residents of this building, Davis creates a fictional story of one resident of the building as it is now, as well as stories of one young woman, Darby, who found herself there.  Darby meets people she would have never met back at home, which is what I feel that a young adulthood in New York is for – an awakening in the city of possibilities.

As Rose explores Darby’s story, we learn about how those websites that give us viral stories work.  I was really taken aback, even though I really shouldn’t have been.  As a part of that community, we’re always looking for the hook to get traffic and/or followers.  It’s kind of an ugly world, and this book started an examination of my part in this community.

I liked The Dollhouse, if it seemed a bit crazy at times, but anything can happen in New York, right?  The Dollhouse will be published on August 23, 2016.  You can buy it from Amazon.com.


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  1. 2
    Sherry Compton

    Wow..I can tell this book had you thinking. I don’t know anything about this hotel, but it sounds like a lot of interesting stories could come from it.

  2. 1

    This story has me intrigued and not only because I grew up very near NYC. I guess I don’t see NYC as you do–as a place where young people go to be free–As for the Barbizon Hotel–it probably did have a “matron” and doors locked at a certain hour–but hey–even back then–rules were made to be broken! I am definitely putting this book on my tbr list.

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