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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

Davis's engaging debut, which moves between 1952 and 2016, ably evokes the New York City of both periods. Darby, the earlier protagonist, comes to New York to take a secretarial course, while Rose, a former television reporter remembered fondly, if somewhat inaccurately, by the public now works at a media start-up. The women are tied by their residence, the Barbizon, an erstwhile hotel for single women that has been converted into condominiums-with the exception of the fourth floor, where the remaining early residents were moved. Rose's chance sighting of a veiled Darby fuels both her personal and professional curiosity and leads her to uncover a mystery that spans both eras. Although the novel's minor characters leave an impression, it's the richly detailed lives of Darby and Rose, more than the underlying mystery, that sustain listener interest. Narrator Tavia Gilbert gamely endeavors to give voice to the novel's distinct and geographically diverse cast of characters but isn't wholly successful. VERDICT Recommended for general fiction collections.-Nicole Williams, Englewood P.L., NJ © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Gilbert's superb audio adaptation of Davis's debut mystery, set in N.Y.C., at the renowned Barbizon Hotel, formerly a women-only residence to famous luminaries, is a highly skilled performance of this suspenseful love story, whose characters inhabit two timelines. Present-day journalist Rose hits a crisis when her boyfriend, whom she lives with at the Barbizon, now a condo building, gets back with his ex-wife and kicks Rose out. Rose learns that a rent-controlled floor of the Barbizon has elderly women residents from its mid-century heyday, and that one of the women, Darby, was involved in a maid's death in 1952. With Darby out of town, Rose squats in Darby's apartment and begins unraveling the mystery of the death of Esme, the maid. Gilbert is brilliant with Esme's full-throated, lovely Puerto Rican accent. Gilbert has nearly flawless range and control with the many characters, hitting a real high mark with the contrast between Esme's confident, pushy, and highly emotional big-city character and Darby, a self-conscious innocent from a small town. In Gilbert's capable hands, the story's message about courage and self-reliance is loud and clear. A Dutton hardcover. (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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