The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis


Book Blurb from

Release Date: August 23, 2016

“The Dollhouse. . . . That’s what we boys like to call it. . . . The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you.”

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.

My Review:

Rose Lewin has just moved in with her newly divorced boyfriend. A former network reporter, she is at a new job that she considers a career setback. At the moment, she is unsure of the decisions she has made in her life. She is living at the former Barbizon hotel which used to house women pursuing modeling and secretarial careers.  

While walking through the condo lobby one evening, Rose comes across an unfriendly elderly resident. By way of the doorman, she finds out that this woman and a few others are long-term tenants of the former hotel. She learns that this woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the ‘50’s. Rose sees a possible story to report and decides to investigate this further.

As Rose investigates the death in the building we are introduced to Darby McLaughlin. With a flashback to 1952, she has just moved from Ohio to start classes in Katherine Gibbs secretarial school. Upon arrival, Darby is not treated nicely by the women on her floor. Having a hard time fitting in, she is friended by a maid at the hotel named Esme. Through Esme, she is introduced to a darker side of New York City.  The more information Rose obtains about Darby during her research, the more obsessed she becomes with getting the whole story. We learn how Darby’s and Esme’s relationship develops, the accidental death, and who Darby is today in 2016.

The chapters alternate between present day and the ‘50’s. The stories of Rose and Darby are well interwoven. I enjoyed the creativity of the author in providing the reader with two parallel lives that ultimately converge into one.  This book is filled with suspense, dilemma and mystery. The book also supplied interesting and informative detail on the lives of those living in the hotel in the 1950’s. This is a debut novel, and I look forward to reading more books from this author .

**The author will be appearing at the Westport library in Westport, Ct.  on Tuesday,  September 6, 2016 from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Books will be available for purchase.**



5 thoughts on “The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

  1. I remember the Barbizon! All the “high class” “girls” stayed there while looking for jobs in publishing or as secretaries!

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