Let’s Get Lit: Book Reviews by Kailyn Walters
Book: The Dollhouse
Author: Fiona Davis
Hi, I’m Kailyn and I’m a total book nerd. I’ve always been an avid reader, writer and creative but it wasn’t until recently that I found a passion for combining all these things together. A few years ago, I started writing book reviews for Online Book Club, and doing so really expanded my literary horizons. I read so many different genres of books, by self-published independent authors that I started to realize some things about myself, and the books I tend to like. For one, I absolutely love romance in the stories I tend to read but have a love-hate relationship with the romance novel genre. Second, I love stories about characters who come into their own, or ultimately learn what it is to be human and truly live, and last but certainly not least- if I am not invested in a book by the first 100 pages, for whatever reason, chances are the book really isn’t my cup of tea (with a few exceptions of course.)
Through my readings for Online Book Club, I learned that I liked historical fiction. I didn’t realize it was a genre until I chose a book classified as such and found that the history lover in me was very intrigued. Since discovering books in this genre, I have come across ones I didn’t like, but The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is definitely on my list of likes when it comes to historical fiction.
The Dollhouse is set between two time periods; 1952 and present day. The story follows Darby McLaughlin upon her arrival at the fabled Barbizon Hotel in New York when it was a boarding hotel for career women and models, and Rose Lewin; a present-day journalist living in the hotel which has been converted to pricey condos. Darby, who lives in a rent-controlled apartment on a floor with other women from the boarding hotel days crosses paths with Rose in a strange sort of twist of events, and the book flips back and forth between past a present, giving us so many similarities in between.
While Darby tries to fit in with the catty models on her floor, and make something of herself by herself she falls into the glitter of underground jazz clubs, seasoned with spice, love, and danger and a journey of self-discovery while Rose’s world is turned upside down in present day and she has to assemble her life together and figure out who it is she has forgotten she truly is.
Davis’s depiction of the Barbizon in the 50’s is so rich with life and detail that I felt truly immersed in the setting and Darby’s youthful self is a very relatable fish out of water type character that I think most women would understand. Her ambitions, her fears, her opinions are universal, and ring true even in present day. Some might read Darby as a feminist, and that is perfectly understandable- in many of the situations Darby finds herself in, especially involving the models on her floor, she tends to go against the societal grain of her time, however her thoughts don’t always add up with her actions. Rose’s present-day life is also very relatable as the women who has it all, and thinks she needs to have it all, that she must tick off the list of expectations to be successful and happy. While Rose is a strong, ambitious and smart woman, she has relegated herself to trying to be what her love interest wants, instead of who she is.
As far as love is concerned, there is romance in this book, mostly in the past with Darby. It’s pretty light and definitely not the focus of the story, but it does add layers to both of our main character’s lives and desires. I can’t talk about the plot without giving too much away, so all I can say is that there are so many twists you won’t see coming and predicting the end of this book is useless. This novel really does take you on quite a ride emotionally but will leave you smiling at the end. I had trouble starting this book, and it took me about a month to finish it. Once I was past half of the book, the second half flew by very quickly, but it does have a slow start. With that being said, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is into historical fiction and strong, relatable female characters.