#ARCAugust Review of The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis Releasing August 23rd

I won a copy from Meaghan Walsh Gerard's ABEA giveaway.

First of all, the blurb is misleading. No, the “rumors of Darby’s involvement” DO NOT haunt the halls. No one knows or gives a shit. Rose only found about it by being nosey with the gossiping doorman.

And glitz? I didn’t see much glitz. There’s like one pricey dinner and a floor full of model ‘gazelles’ and that’s it.

The rest is spent in secretary school, a hotel room, and the jazz club. While the jazz club rocked, it’s drab like it’s supposed to be.

It wasn’t fun finding this out the hard way. My expectations were off and that’s the wrong foot to start on. I didn’t regret reading in the end, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Hopefully, this helps ya’ll!

Trigger Warning: Rape

Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery
Age: Adult
Format: ARC 304 pgs.
Source: Won from Meaghan Walsh Gerard
Recommendable? Kinda
CW: Rape
"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.

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The Good The Bad & The Other
+ Liked the history - Rose was annoying and stupid
+ Liked the mystery - Didn’t care about Rose’s confessing what happened at the TV station
+ Liked the interviews - Her romances were stupid
+ Ending was sweet - Murder Mystery reveal was anticlimactic
+ Good message - Blurb is disingenuous
+ Liked how Rose finally got her shit together - Didn't enjoy it
+ Liked the sex

The Dollhouse introduces Rose as she’s preparing dinner for her and her recently divorced-with-children boyfriend. It’s a whirlwind romance and he’s coming home with news.

Quickly, it establishes Rose’s shame and mystery regarding why she left her TV station job. Yet I did not care and its subsequent reveal didn’t help Rose’s case.

It’s easy to see through the relationship bullshit while Rose is oblivious and doesn’t listen to her best friend, a catty soap opera star married with step-children. She’s so wrapped up in her romance woes and I did. Not. Get. It. I wasn’t sold on their romance in the first place so it was hard to be sympathetic.

I didn’t like Rose for most of the story. She kept getting worse until she finally crashed into reality.

From there, she made steps in the right direction, I just couldn’t forget everything she put me through. It wasn’t all bad though, I loved her interviews with people, her character progression and standing up to her boss. That glimpse into the startup e-mag was interesting. In the end, I’m glad she screwed her head on straight but I was happier to be done.

Darby’s tale kept the story going while Rose sunk to new lows. I loved Darby’s perspective of coming to New York City from a small town. Watching her explore, survive, and blossom was a thing of beauty. Except the fucking rape scene.

I couldn’t wait to see what she did next. Her love of bepop, relationship with a certain beau, and friendship with Esme were outstanding. It’s too bad Esme wound up as just another Spicy Latina. I didn’t see the twists coming in her tale, until the final outcome.

That’s when these perspectives switched roles: the past was a letdown and the present was pleasantly worthwhile. WC? I called who, how, and why once the drama was amped up and the actual confession reaction? “Oh.” That’s it. No oomph. No feeling. Just oh. Okay, anyways…

But once it’s clear what’s happened, they start wrapping the threads up in the present. It’s sweet and I loved seeing things righted. Not a bad way to end the book, but it didn’t make up for the ride there.

It’s okay, I guess. Nothing wrong with the writing, flow or anything, but I really did not like Rose and her downward spiral, which ended up killing the book.

Unless you have a specific hankering for this time period or Jazz and can like Rose or enjoy her terrible decisions, I’d pass on The Dollhouse.

If you want a contemporary drama intertwined with a historical mystery, I’d recommend June by Miranda Beverly-Whittmore instead.

But pretty close this time...

1 comment:

  1. Aha... thank you for the heads up! That is why I like reading blogs because it helps me prioritise the books I would rather read and spend my limited reading time with than others. :)


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