Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, 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.
Published August 23rd 2016
by Penguin Audio
9 hours, 54 minutes
This was an audio read for me, with the reader being Tavia Gilbert, she is a favorite of mine.
It’s 1952 at The Barbizon Hotel for Women, known as the Dollhouse. The time period was vividly described here, from the culture, finishing schools to the seedy jazz clubs. There were lots of changes going on in New York - good and bad and this book showed it.
Present day (2016) at the same hotel, now turned into condos, Darby’s life is turned upside down. I found this part a little predictable and cringed at some of her decisions, she wouldn’t listen when I hollered 'don’t do it', but she did it anyway, forcing me to listen all the faster.
The Dollhouse was an entertaining book, like I said a little predictable but mysterious at the same time. It's a story of loneliness, friendship, and determination.
Audiobook via Scribd