Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. By and large, I read work that can’t easily be categorized in one genre, but historical novels have a special place in my heart. Daisy Goodwin is one of the foremost historical novelists of recent years. Her […]
Fiona Davis’s first novel, The Dollhouse, weaves together two stories: the story of Darby, an aspiring secretary, and Rose, a journalist who becomes obsessed with Darby’s mysterious past. Davis links these two women and their respective experiences of New York City, portraying both the glamorous world of models and businesswomen and the seedy world of jazz clubs and drug hustlers.
Legend has it, Darby was involved in a tussle on the top of the famous Barbizon Hotel. Darby was left scarred, but a maid fell to her death. When Rose, living with her boyfriend in the refurbished Barbizon, catches a glimpse of Darby, she is immediately intrigued. Interest turns to obsession, as Rose’s personal life deteriorates, her fascination with Darby increases. Rose plays detective, sleuthing to discover the truth about Darby’s disfigurement and the maid’s death. Rose’s fixation on Darby becomes an outlet for the anguish she is feeling. In The Dollhouse, Davis explores not only a compelling mystery, but also the complicated grieving process, and how we survive when we hit rock bottom.
I liked this book for its variety. It is part drama, part love story, part historical fiction, part suspense. It defied my expectations by highlighting a facet of New York life that is not always noted in 1950s period pieces. Even though it isn’t the best book that I have read this summer, I looked forward to reading it at the end of my day, and I think it is a good beach read, especially for somebody who loves novels set in New York.
What are you reading this summer? Be sure to follow me on Bloglovin’ on Instagram, and stop by again soon!
Last semester, I took a single-author course for my English major on Jane Austen. I’ve read most every page Austen has written (okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I studied a whole lot of her works, even some obscure ones and partial drafts.) They’re all great, and it’s safe to say Austen was a brilliant writer (not a shocking revelation). 19th century literature isn’t for everybody, but Austen’s novels are accessible, and I think anybody might enjoy them. Jane Austen’s novels are all unique and innovative, but now that I’ve read them all, I feel comfortable enumerating my favorites. Here is my ranking of Jane Austen’s novels:
- Pride and Prejudice: No surprise here, but I am a fan of P&P. I first read it when I was about 14, then revisited it in the last year (which I blogged about here). Studying it in the classroom revealed the complexities of the text, which I had missed in my tender pre-teen years. However, the fairytale romance and witty humor is still there, and for somebody who is interested in reading Jane Austen for fun, Pride and Prejudice is certainly the place to start.
- Emma: Another famous Austen novel, Emma is playful and fun (with perhaps the most dynamic heroine of all of Austen’s works). I might be partial to Emma because of the 90s film adaptation, Clueless, but Austen’s spunky central character, mild social satire, and courtship plot are at their apex in this novel. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, and you want more Austen, I think Emma is the perfect follow-up.
- Mansfield Park: This book is such a diamond in the rough! Mansfield Park is often overlooked, but I think it is some of Austen’s best work. Perhaps the funniest of all of her novels, and the most subversive, Mansfield Park features an unconventional and shy young heroine who falls for a suitor she is forbidden from wooing. Although it might be helpful to be familiar with Austen’s style before reading this book, I find it a fresh and funny read.
- Persuasion: I love the title of this book, and I really wanted to like Persuasion, but I just didn’t fall for it as hard as I did the other novels. I enjoyed the themes of lost love, regret, and second chances, and I might revisit this book in a few years; perhaps if I read it out of the classroom context, I would enjoy it more. It was one of the last books we read in the semester, so maybe I was just Austened out. Nonetheless, for a J.A. newbie, Persuasion probably isn’t the place to start.
- Sense and Sensibility: I have come to appreciate Sense and Sensibility, becuase I’ve read it twice. When I read it for fun a couple summers ago, I hated it; Sense and Sensibility is not a particularly romantic novel. In fact, I think it’s a little sad. I like the characters, and upon studying the novel I realized that it holds an important place in the English literary canon; but in all honesty, the Austen’s other novels are more pleasurable to read.
- Northanger Abbey: I enjoyed reading Northanger Abbey, but it’s last on my list because it is a bit of a niche-market book. If you love Jane Austen, or you know a lot about gothic literature and the history of the novel, this book will probably appeal to you. However, because Northanger Abbey is so deeply situated in the period in which it was written, it is less accessible for a modern audience.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of my favorite books of all time. It stands out on my bookshelf as a novel guaranteed to make me laugh-out-loud. Like many people, I saw the movie adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary before I read the book. I love the […]
The first time I read Pride and Prejudice, I was fifteen. I carefully selected the title from a reading list for school, curled up in my favorite reading spot, and immersed myself in Jane Austen. This month, I re-read Pride and Prejudice for a class […]
Robert Galbraith’s debut novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is among my favorite books of 2016. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a detective novel; it isn’t a thriller, so it doesn’t rely on scare tactics to advance the plot. Galbraith builds suspense instead of fear, creating compelling characters and intriguing clues. Galbraith’s masterful plot and character development is the most sophisticated I have ever seen in a detective novel.
Lula Landry is a supermodel with a troubled past. Her diagnosed mental health issues and drug-addicted boyfriend lead the police to believe that her fall from the balcony of her luxurious flat was a suicide. Several months after the case is closed, the model’s brother shows up at the office of private detective Cormoran Strike, hoping he will investigate what he suspects was his sister’s murder. Strike, the illegitimate son of a rock star and a war veteran with an amputated leg, agrees to investigate Landry’s death. He is aided by temp-turned-secretary Robin, a newly engaged blonde who has always harbored a secret wish to play detective.
The Cuckoo’s Calling takes place in London, England, which makes the novel especially exciting for an American like me. Given Lula Landry’s occupation, the novel is set against a backdrop of glamour. Strike interviews a number of eclectic characters: Guy Somé, the fashion designer who made Landry’s career; Ciara Porter, Lula’s friend and fellow model; Freddie Bestigui, the film producer who is anxious to fit any celebrity he can into his movies; Tony Landry, Lula’s uncle and successful lawyer at a prestigious firm.
Who is Robert Galbraith? The name Robert Galbraith is actually a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. Need I say more? While I never read her mystery novel The Casual Vacancy, because I wasn’t ready for a non-Potter novel by Rowling, I leapt at the chance to read the Galbraith book. Somehow, the Galbraith persona made the book seem more attractive. The Cuckoo’s Calling features many of Rowling’s talents, particularly her unique turn of phrase and her ability to craft lovable (or hate-able) characters. As soon as I finished The Cuckoo’s Calling, I rushed out to find a copy of the next book in the series, The Silkworm. This book is brilliant, and easily one of my favorite books of 2016.
Sophia Amoruso, founder the fashion phenomenon www.nastygal.com, lends advice and inspiration to young women in her book #Girlboss. The book chronicles Nasty Gal’s journey from ebay store to independent enterprise, as well as Sophia’s journey from renegade to CEO. The book is full of anecdotes […]