The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse is the first novel written by Fiona Davis and weaves together a past and present story about two young women trying to make their own way in New York City.  The story begins with Rose, a journalist who works for a struggling startup news agency, who is putting together a story about the Barbizon Hotel for Women. The boarding house which opened in the 1920s housed professional women, and was home to several famous people throughout the years including: Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Candice Bergen, and Grace Kelly. Rose’s focus is on the Barbizon women who never left the hotel and now live in rent-controlled apartments.

The Dollhouse by Fiona DavisRose’s interest is piqued when she meets her neighbor, Darby, one of the women who was involved in an accident on an upper floor in 1953. The conflict escalated with a maid falling to her death and a physical and emotional scar inflicted so deep that Darby has kept her face covered for over 50 years.  As Rose digs deeper to uncover the mystery surrounding the circumstances of the tragic accident, she begins to understand the lives of the women who lived there and the challenges that they faced. It is during this time that Rose experiences her own struggles with the loss of both her father and a serious relationship. Through this journey, Rose comes to terms with her personal fears and learns that she is stronger than she thought she was.

The story seamlessly goes back and forth between present-day and the 1950s. The reader recognizes and relates to the current fast-paced world of Rose and then is thrust back into “post war era” New York City. The prevalent culture of jazz and drugs along with the stories of the women who lived at the Barbizon Hotel are fascinating and help to keep the reader immersed in the world of Darby.  Although separated by over fifty years, Rose finds commonalities with the guests at the Barbizon Hotel in surviving New York City and establishing themselves as independent, confident women.

The Dollhouse includes mystery, suspense, and an historical element which make for an interesting and captivating story! This highly recommended debut novel will, hopefully, be the first of many written by Fiona Davis.

Michelle Mills is the Associate Director of Community Relations for the Alamance County Public Libraries.  She can be reached at mmills@alamancelibaries.org or (336) 570-6981.