Friday, October 13, 2017

*Review* The Address by Fiona Davis

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: August 1, 2017
Pages: 368

Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City's most famous residence. 

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. 

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island. 

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head. 

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives --and lies--of the beating hearts within.

I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. 

This story is told in alternating POVs from two different time periods, and at first, I had kind of a hard time remembering which woman's name applied to which time period. I shouldn't have had that problem as their stories, especially their beginnings were really quite different, but somehow it was difficult for me to keep them straight for the first few chapters. Maybe it's because I just didn't feel much of a connection with either of them at first, so I had no reason to bother trying to remember their names. Once a connection was established and I started wanting things to happen for the characters, keeping them straight was no longer a problem though. 

I really enjoyed the build up of both Sara and Bailey's lives at the Dakota, although I liked seeing things from Sara's POV just a little bit more (I like my historical fiction a bit more historical than the 80s). It was fascinating to me the way the apartment building was being run in the beginning, granted the idea of having servants at all is a bit fascinating for me. What I really liked though, was Sara and Theodore's relationship. Even though he was her boss and married, I was really kind of hoping that something would happen between them because they worked so well together getting The Dakota running (and obviously that would translate to working well together in a relationship, duh!) But I wanted him to do things honorably and divorce his wife even though that was basically unheard of in 1880s. 

When the excitement of the mystery started to escalate, I began to suspect that some things that had been believed to have been true in the 1880s may not have played out exactly as told. And I always get a little bit giddy when I figure things out before the author tells me them. There was definitely some giddiness while reading this book. 

Overall I give The Address 3.986 stars. - Katie 

Fiona Davis was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah, and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After ten years, she changed careers, working as an editor and writer, and her historical fiction debut, THE DOLLHOUSE, was published in 2016. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is based in New York City.

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