He turned to face her, eyebrows raised in surprise. She gathered that few residents asked him personal questions. “Back in the seventies. Things were very different then.”
She liked the way things came out as ‘tings’. “Do you know many of the older residents?”
“The ladies? Of course. I know them all.”
“What about the woman who left a little while ago? The one with the dog.”
He smiled. “Miss McLaughlin. And Bird. Odd woman.”
A woman with buttery blond hair clopped toward them carrying several packages. Patrick left Rose’s side and scuttled over to her. Rose checked her watch. She really should get back upstairs, not stand around chatting, but Patrick quickly reappeared. “Can I get you a taxi, Miss Lewin?”
“No,no.” She waved a hand in front of her. “I was hoping you could tell me more about Mrs McLaughlin.”
“Miss McLaughlin.” He was about four inches shorter than she was and he lifted his ruddy, round face to hers. “I don’t like to talk too much about the other residents, you know. ”
Patrick loved to talk about the other tenants, but Rose put on a serious expression and nodded.
“She’s from way back, the fifties, that was when she first moved in. Came here to go to secretarial school.”
“She seems like an interesting woman, the way she dresses and all.”
“Not many friends in the building. Management can’t stand her. She kicked and screamed when they said she had to move from her apartment down to 4B, with the rest of the longtimers. Threatened to call her lawyer. But she never did. In the end, I helped her to pack up and move. She’s a retired lady, couldn’t afford proper movers, and I was happy to do it. She always remembers me at Christmas with a card and a small token.”
Apartment 4B was the one directly under theirs. The one with the music. “That was very kind of you, to help her move.”
“Terrible story, what happened to her.”
ABOUT THIS BOOK: 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.
MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 jazz trumpeting stars for The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis. This is a simply exquisite story divided between the early 1950s and the current day, between Darby McLaughlin and Rose Lewin.
I can’t believe that this was Davis’s debut novel. Her characterisation is masterful, as is her talent for setting the scene. The writing flows seamlessly from era to era, character to character. Davis brings to life the jazz dives, the condescension and petty rivalries between the ‘Ford girls’, or giraffes as Esme describes them, and the lesser mortals residing in what was the premier hotel for ladies.
The sharp contrast in lifestyle between the two time periods, and the similarities, are well used to further the plot which evolves into a mystery, and a romance, that had me hanging onto the author’s every word.
I listened to to the audiobook of The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, narrated by Tavia Gilbert and published by Penguin Audio via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.
This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1741735965