Book: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis [Goodreads | Amazon]
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Audiobook by Audible
Rating: 5 stars
Cover Rating: 5 stars
This cover is lovely. The muted, grey-wash background with the pop of red is definitely eye catching. In fact, the cover was what made me interested in this book. I was intrigued by the color juxtaposition and I loved the girl’s style.
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 1950s 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.
I love a fantastic debut novel and Davis hit it out of the park with this one! This story was a fantastic combination of historical fiction, mystery, and interesting characters.
Davis did an amazing job at developing both stories both separately and as a whole. You feel for both girls and are equally invested in both story lines (though I had a preference for Darby’s story, overall).
The characters are enjoyable, believable, and you are really rooting for both Rose and Darby. There is small love story within Rose’s story that I do not feel was necessary, but I’m not mad about it. I appreciated that Davis took the time to make such vastly different characters for Darby’s story. Davis did a great job at giving even small characters a good background.
The overall plot was great. Interesting story and a captivating progression. Davis did a great job switching back and forth from perspectives to keep you on your toes, but without being a jerk about it. I also was a fan of how the story progression happened: Rose would discover something new in the present, then we’d go back to Darby and find out what really happened.
The writing was fabulous. Descriptive, but not too wordy. Good conversations between characters, but not unnecessary ones. As stated above, I feel like some of the wording didn’t necessarily suit the POV, but that may be more of a quirk on my end.
I did listen to this book on Audible and found the narrator, Tavia Gilbert, did a fantastic job. Distinct voices, not rushed, really felt like she, too, was part of the story.
When I initially finished this book, I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. After thinking on it some more since finishing, I decided to up it to 5 stars. I rarely find myself listening to audiobooks when not commuting. This one, though, I was finding times to listen while knitting or cleaning or just sitting. And I cannot wait to listen to this again. Beautifully done story!