Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Address by Fiona Davis

 Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City's most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives --and lies--of the beating hearts within.

Hardcover, 368 pages 
Expected publication: August 1st 2017 
by Dutton Books
**** 1/2

It's not that often that I polish off a book in 24 hours but when I do, it's obviously a sign of how enticing it is. The synopsis gives a detailed portrait of what to expect here and it was my curiosity of how Sara could have killed this man who knew her so well. As the story evolved I kept looking for clues and wondering how and why this would take place.

Lately it seems with dual narrative books I find myself engrossed with both the past and present story lines, but with The Address I found myself drawn to the past more, I think I got to know the characters better and found the plot more intriguing, reading about the lifestyle and historical aspects of the time is something that interests me. The 1985 time was interesting enough, with Bailey and her cousin Melinda but the author spent more time on the past. I appreciated the timing of this part of the book with it's lack of electronic devices -no cell phones, no Internet, no computer jargon, that was a nice refreshing change.

The Address comes in at 368 pages, I thought the first two thirds were great, there was depth of character, the story line moved at the right pace and I had a hard time putting it down. However, the last third could have done with a few more pages, I felt the ending a bit rushed and there could have been more time spent drawing out the conclusion. Now don't get me wrong here I found the ending was fitting and it wasn't till close to the end where it actually dawned on me what might be taking place, so I commend the author for dropping clues that didn't always register with me.

The historical aspect always fascinates me, with the actual building and renovation of the Dakota, time spent in an insane asylum and the landscape of New York City in that era. The timing of some actual historical events were moved to fit the story and I am fine with that, if the author didn't mention that in the author's notes I wouldn't have known any different. But I appreciate the mention showing the author's respect for the history here.

Definitely a book and author I highly recommend.

Thanks to Penguin Group for an advanced copy of this little gem.

1 comment:

  1. I recently read this one and will be reviewing it soon. I agree with you — I found the story set in the past much more interesting!