"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' stunning debut novel pulls listeners into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, 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.
©2016 Fiona Davis (P)2016 Penguin Audio
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"Lifetime Movie in Book Form"
I read/listen to 2-3 books a week, so I have sort of developed a way to categorize books after finishing them:
- waste of time
- worth a read but not for a whole credit (buy it on sale)
- solid book worth a credit
- worth a credit and telling friends about
I feel like this one falls into the 'buy it on sale' category. Interesting history, but not an experienced author and it showed. There were a few plot points that I felt weren't explained (can't elaborate without spoiling), and times that felt very 'Lifetime' for me, meaning silly/trivial misunderstandings creating the main obstacles for the characters. There were also parts that seemed to have no purpose - no character development, furthering of story, etc.
Would be a fine listen if you have a long drive - but wait until it's on sale.
"interesting spin on a very historical NY icon"
Before reading this book I looked up the history of the Barbizon Hotel and it really help
"Listenable but got progressively more ridiculous"
First I had to get past the voice performer. Tavia Gilbert does excellent and distinct character voices, but the two main characters she performs (Rose in the present and Darby in '52) were a tiny bit overwrought. But I hung in there figuring I'd get used to it, and I did. All the other characters were performed really well.
Then the story itself gets progressively more unbelievable as the book progresses. I might have been more inclined to suspend disbelief if I had liked the two main characters. I feel like I should have liked them but instead found them a little insipid. Way too many tangled romances going on, way too much naïve "country bumpkinness," way too much of women who have zero self-confidence and kind of despise themselves.
The book had enough going for it to keep me listening (I like the structure of a person in the present trying to solve a mystery in the past--and you get both POVs) and I won't return it, but it was ok at best. The publisher calls this a "stunning debut." In no universe could this be considered "stunning." Granted, I think there are people far less critical than I who will really enjoy it, but "stunning" is stunning hyperbole!
"Started strong but floundered"
The Dollhouse began with a fascinating story and was intrigued with the narration going between the two time periods involved in the story. The narrator was excellent.
As the story neared the final third of the book it became trite and predictable.
This story really needed more believable characters and plotlines. Quite a few times I felt myself thinking, no real person would actually say that, do that, react that way, etc. It just felt contrived and very corny. I was able to listen until the end but I was definitely not very absorbed in the story.
The narration was a little bit corny to go along with the story itself - it's hard to tell which was contributing more to the effect.
Darby and Rose...though they were the main characters....oops
The description makes it sound a lot more exciting than it is.
"Lifetime movie meets Nancy Drew"
I was very disappointed in this story that seemed promising but played out like a bad Lifetime move, perky Nancy Drew, YA romance blend. The characters were one dimensional and I was disappointed in the lack of history and detail about the actual Barbizon and women's lives in the city at the time. The narrator was fine, but her overly perky performance only added to the effect of a bad lifetime movie.
"A joy to listen to"
The story was amazing a great blend of past and present. The reader did a phenomenal job at making all of the characters individual and distinct in their own way. I recommend to all.
Love love loved this book! Awesome back and forth between the 50's and present day! Great writing and narration!
When downloading this book I thought I was going to read a regular romantic book that was placed in a past era. To my pleasant surprise the story took a interesting turn that I wasent expecting. I would definitely recommend this book
"A Great Almost-er"
I enjoyed this book but had a level of frustration that I think it was a great concept and should have been about 25% better. The characters (especially the contemporary one) could have been more deeply defined and there is a lot to the story but sometimes I felt the author took short cuts instead of bringing us to our own conclusions.
Yes, but I would qualify it with the caveats above.
There was something annoying about the voice of her as the younger women. Just a little too twee.
I'm afraid that would dumb it down a peg - I'd like to see it turned up a notch instead.
I just thought this was a great concept and even her story is great, but the whole thing could have used more development and more care. A great almost-er.
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