"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' stunning debut novel pulls listeners 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.
©2016 Fiona Davis (P)2016 Penguin Audio
I read/listen to 2-3 books a week, so I have sort of developed a way to categorize books after finishing them:
- waste of time
- worth a read but not for a whole credit (buy it on sale)
- solid book worth a credit
- worth a credit and telling friends about
I feel like this one falls into the 'buy it on sale' category. Interesting history, but not an experienced author and it showed. There were a few plot points that I felt weren't explained (can't elaborate without spoiling), and times that felt very 'Lifetime' for me, meaning silly/trivial misunderstandings creating the main obstacles for the characters. There were also parts that seemed to have no purpose - no character development, furthering of story, etc.
Would be a fine listen if you have a long drive - but wait until it's on sale.
First I had to get past the voice performer. Tavia Gilbert does excellent and distinct character voices, but the two main characters she performs (Rose in the present and Darby in '52) were a tiny bit overwrought. But I hung in there figuring I'd get used to it, and I did. All the other characters were performed really well.
Then the story itself gets progressively more unbelievable as the book progresses. I might have been more inclined to suspend disbelief if I had liked the two main characters. I feel like I should have liked them but instead found them a little insipid. Way too many tangled romances going on, way too much naïve "country bumpkinness," way too much of women who have zero self-confidence and kind of despise themselves.
The book had enough going for it to keep me listening (I like the structure of a person in the present trying to solve a mystery in the past--and you get both POVs) and I won't return it, but it was ok at best. The publisher calls this a "stunning debut." In no universe could this be considered "stunning." Granted, I think there are people far less critical than I who will really enjoy it, but "stunning" is stunning hyperbole!
The Dollhouse began with a fascinating story and was intrigued with the narration going between the two time periods involved in the story. The narrator was excellent.
As the story neared the final third of the book it became trite and predictable.
Overall a really great story. I found the Darby parts fascinating and compelling. I had a hard time liking the Rose parts though, never mind loving them.
At first I had sympathy for Rose. But her complete lack of ethics really got to me. I kept waiting for her to wake up and realize what a horrible person she was being, but she never did. At the end she almost did, but she managed to lie to herself and convince herself that she hadn't been using the people around her for her monetary benefit, amongst other things, but for her own emotional needs, which isn't really any better. Rose was put in a difficult situation, but it wasn't nearly as bad as Darby's and doesn't excuse her behavior.
If you can ignore the Rose parts of the book, not just her behavior, they are also a little clunkily written, the Darby parts are terrific!!! I would highly recommend this audiobook, well half of it anyway.
This story really needed more believable characters and plotlines. Quite a few times I felt myself thinking, no real person would actually say that, do that, react that way, etc. It just felt contrived and very corny. I was able to listen until the end but I was definitely not very absorbed in the story.
The narration was a little bit corny to go along with the story itself - it's hard to tell which was contributing more to the effect.
Darby and Rose...though they were the main characters....oops
The description makes it sound a lot more exciting than it is.
I was very disappointed in this story that seemed promising but played out like a bad Lifetime move, perky Nancy Drew, YA romance blend. The characters were one dimensional and I was disappointed in the lack of history and detail about the actual Barbizon and women's lives in the city at the time. The narrator was fine, but her overly perky performance only added to the effect of a bad lifetime movie.
The story was amazing a great blend of past and present. The reader did a phenomenal job at making all of the characters individual and distinct in their own way. I recommend to all.
Yes, I would and I have. I love the stories from the past and the lives of older people. The things they have seen and done. This is a very dramatic story from the 50s that was discovered by a young lady from 2016 living her own drama. Switching from 1950s to 2016 from Darby's life to Rose's life just added to the book.
Cannot think of a book similar to this one.
Really great accents.
Yes. But at the same time I wanted to linger and draw this out. Read and then think about it.
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