Episode # 38

The Dollhouse
A Novel

Fiona Davis

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.
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08/23/16
Dutton
Hardcover
304 pgs.
$26.00
1101984996
9781101984994
Dutton

 


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The Dollhouse

“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’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.

Praise for The Dollhouse

“Davis’s impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story… 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.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Davis delivers a fast-paced, richly-imagined debut that’s almost impossible to put down.”
Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector

“The ghosts of the famed NYC women’s hotel come to life in The Dollhouse. Davis expertly weaves together the stories of several women who lived in the Barbizon during its heyday in the 1950s, and the broken-hearted journalist who decides to get the ’scoop’ on a decades-old tragedy that happened in the building. A fun, page-turning mystery.”
Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist and the upcoming Three-Martini Lunch

“Davis delivers a fast-paced, richly-imagined debut that’s almost impossible to put down.”
Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector

“Multigenerational and steeped in history, The Dollhouse is a story about women-- from the clicking anxiety of Katie Gibbs' secretaries to the willowy cool of Eileen Ford's models, to honey-voiced hatcheck girls and glamorous eccentrics with lapdogs named Bird. Davis celebrates the women of New York's present and past-- the ones who live boldly, independently, carving out lives on their own terms.”
Elizabeth Winder, author of Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

“Two coming-of-age stories rolled into an ode to New York City and the young women -- of past and present -- who have tried to forge lives and careers there. Poetic, romantic, crushing, and soulful.”
Jules Moulin, author of Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes


 
Fiona Davis lives in New York City, and is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The Dollhouse is her first novel.