The Dollhouse: Book summary and reviews of The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse

by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis X
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
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Book Summary

Fiona Davis's 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.

"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."

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Davis's impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story… Darby and Rose, in alternating chapters, weave intricate threads into twists and turns that ultimately bring them together; the result is good old-fashioned suspense." - Publishers Weekly

"Fans of Suzanne Rindell's Three-Martini Lunch will enjoy this debut's strong sense of time and place as the author brings a legendary New York building to life and populates it with realistic characters who find themselves in unusual situations." - Library Journal

"Despite moments of liveliness, this period piece fails to ignite much warmth, let alone a spark." - Kirkus

"Davis delivers a fast-paced, richly-imagined debut that's almost impossible to put down." - Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector

"Davis expertly weaves together the stories of several women who lived in the Barbizon during its heyday in the 1950s, and the broken-hearted journalist who decides to get the 'scoop' on a decades-old tragedy that happened in the building. A fun, page-turning mystery." - Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist and Three-Martini Lunch

"Two coming-of-age stories rolled into an ode to New York City and the young women - of past and present - who have tried to forge lives and careers there. Poetic, romantic, crushing, and soulful." - Jules Moulin, author of Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes

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Reader Reviews

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Nancy B.

The Dollhouse
I loved this book. Perhaps having lived at the Barbizon from 1952 through 1954 made the book fascinating to me. It brought back memories I had forgotten but recalled after reading the book. In any case, I felt the writing was true, the characterization believable, and the plot well thought out. I highly recommend this book.

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Author Information

Fiona Davis

Fiona Davis was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah, and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional theater. After 10 years, she changed careers, working as an editor and writer and specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, dance and theater.

She's a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is based in in New York City. She loves nothing better than hitting farmer's markets on weekends in search of the perfect tomato, and traveling to foreign cities steeped in history, like London and Cartagena. The Dollhouse is her first novel.

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