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.
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