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The dollhouse
2016
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Rose (Female), Journalist, Doing research for article on killing of Barbizon Hotel maid in 1953; stays in apartment of tenant Darby
Darby (Female), Recluse, Tenant of Barbizon Hotel for over fifty years
Esme (Female), Maid, Barbizon Hotel maid; murdered in 1953
Genre
Fiction
Historical
Love story
Mystery
Suspense
Topics
Women's lives
Hotels
Journalists
Recluses
Domestics
Mysterious deaths
Setting
New York City, New York - Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.)
Time Period
1950s -- 20th century
2000s -- 21st century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

[DEBUT] This first novel revolves around Manhattan's famous hotel for women, the Barbizon. In 1952, Darby McLaughlin arrives from Ohio to take up secretarial studies at the Katherine Gibbs School. Having disappointed her mother in failing to be "marriage material," she must learn to support herself. Fast-forward to 2016 and enter journalist Rose Lewin, who has left her broadcast career and rent-controlled apartment to move into one of the renovated Barbizon condos with the rich and still-married Griff. This incarnation of the hotel is upscale, with the exception of a few units still occupied by the original tenants. The stories of Darby and Rose run parallel as both women decide what is important in life. Rose discovers a mystery involving a suspicious fall from the roof, a maid named Esme, and an older resident who never shows her disfigured face. Finding its resolution is the saving grace for Rose as she faces both personal and professional crises. Verdict 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.-Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Davis's impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story. It showcases the intersection of two women's lives at the famed Barbizon Hotel, whose notable residents included Joan Didion, Grace Kelly, and Sylvia Plath. In the present day, journalist Rose is kicked out of her upscale condo at the former hotel for women after her lover reunites with his wife. While doing research for an article on the grisly 1953 death of Barbizon maid Esme, she stays in the apartment of reclusive octogenarian tenant Darby. Darby, who has been a Barbizon resident for over 50 years, knew Esme and was connected to her demise. Rose's investigation quickly becomes her obsession and refuge when her father becomes ill, her career implodes, and her hopes for a relationship with her married lover fade. "I need to know... how to start again," Rose says as she digs to the bottom of the mystery of Esme's death. 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. Through the two characters, Davis juxtaposes the elegance and dark side of a bygone era-its jazz, glamorous models, career-minded women, and nascent heroin market-with the crass, digitally obsessed, and cutthroat media world of today. What crosses the divide is the chance for disappointment and loss to give way to purpose and love. Agent: Stefanie Lieberman, Janklow & Nesbit. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
"oThe 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.o 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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