Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (audio)

Title: The Dollhouse
Author: Fiona Davis
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Published: August 2016, Penguin Audio
Length: 9 hours 53 minutes
Source: Library

Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, 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: This is Fiona Davis's debut novel and I just adored it. I absolutely love stories about living in NYC, especially ones that have to do with its rich history and this one hit on that and a whole lot more!

I love dual narratives and felt that this one was done so well. Having the story move back and forth between the present and the 1950's was so seemlessly done - it never once felt jilted or choppy. I loved how Fiona gives life to the famous Barbizon Hotel and wraps her fictional story around it. I fully admit to not knowing much about this hotel, so I was totally captivated by this story. 

There is such attention to detail in this book - from the social mores of the time in the 1950s to the clothing and all the accessories - this is what made the book for me. I loved learning what was socially acceptable for young girls at this time and what was not. That is starkly contrasted with what is acceptable in the present - for Rose who has no restrictions placed on her. I cannot imagine living somewhat on my own and having so many rules put upon me - no young men allowed in the building after a certain time, must wear a hat and gloves, etc. 

This was such a great story - from the characters and the mystery and the setting - I loved it! Such a great book for a debut novel and I have no doubt that her next book, which comes out later this summer, will be equally as delightful!

Audio thoughts:
This was a great book to listen to and Tavia Gilbert really did a great job with the narration. She made the characters come to life, giving each woman unique voices so as to make them distinguishable, as well as giving everyone else their own voice, too. Her accents were good and so was her pacing and tone. I've listened to her before and know that I am in for a listening treat when I see her name on the audio book. 



  1. I am ready for my next audio book. :)
    This sounds like it would be perfect as an audio book. I love books set in NY as well. Wonderful review, Kristin!

  2. This one has been on my radar since I first saw it mentioned a few months ago. I'm glad it lived up to its potential! I don't think I've ever listened to Tavia Gilbert but now I really want too!


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