by Fiona Davis
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Goodreads: 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.
Kritters Thoughts: A book with two stories going on at the same time - my jam! One storyline is 2016 and Rose, a journalist, is living in the Barbizon building and after a series of events she finds herself completely interested in the women who lived in this building when it was a hotel just for women. The other storyline is 1952 and Darby, a young woman who moved from Ohio to the Barbizon hotel is trying to make it in NYC.
I love a book that has two storylines going on at once and I love it even more when the reader knows from the beginning where they intersect! The reader knows where Rose starts and Darby begins but also where they absolutely overlap. There are definitely some daddy issues in both stories, but nothing that doesn't seem honest and real. I also loved that although Rose and Darby had some relationship issues, this book was more than I need to find a man, but more I need to find my calling and maybe a man can be on the side!
I am putting this book on a shelf with all of my other NYC historical fiction favorites. I was worried that when I started it, it would be just another NYC historical fiction read, but this one had a little more because it made me look up the Barbizon and learn about a building and its culture that I was completely unaware of.
At just under 300 pages, this one was the perfect day of reading!
Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of this book free of charge from Dutton. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.