The Dollhouse

TheSkimm Reads Pick of the Week


Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers 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.



praise for the dollhouse


A TIME Magazine Summer Reading Pick
A Publishers Weekly First Fiction Pick
An August LibraryReads Pick
theSkimm Reads Pick of the Week 

Davis’s impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story . . . Darby and Rose, in alternating chapters, weave intricate threads into twists and turns that ultimately bring them together; the result is good old-fashioned suspense.
— Publisher's Weekly, starred review
Rich in both twists and period detail, this tale of big-city ambition is impossible to put down.
— People Magazine, Book of the Week
An ode to old New York that will have you yelling for more seasons of Mad Men.
— The New York Post
The Dollhouse is a thrilling peek through a window into another world — one that readers will savor for a long time.
— Associated Press
Set in the 1950s against the glitzy backdrop of N.Y.C.’s Barbizon Hotel, where a fleet of women stay to pursue careers as models, secretaries, and the like, this suspenseful novel about a woman who took a decidedly different path—and the journalist who wants to uncover her secrets—will quicken your pulse.
Clever and full of twists and it’s very hard to put this novel down. . .very well done, a story well told.
— New York Journal of Books
Davis delivers a fast-paced, richly-imagined debut that’s almost impossible to put down.
— Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector
The ghosts of the famed NYC women’s hotel come to life in The Dollhouse. Davis expertly weaves together the stories of several women who lived in the Barbizon during its heyday in the 1950s, and the broken-hearted journalist who decides to get the ‘scoop’ on a decades-old tragedy that happened in the building. A fun, page-turning mystery.
— Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist and Three-Martini Lunch