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THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER
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.
A GIlded Age Mystery!
The Address is the second novel by Fiona Davis. Sara J. Smythe is the head housekeeper at Langham Hotel in London in June 1884. Sara happens to notice a little girl walking on the ledge outside a hotel room and rushes to rescue her. Theodore Camden, the child’s father and an architect, offers Sara a job in New York at The Dakota. The Dakota is a fancy apartment house with hotel amenities. Sara, after some thought, accepts the position and sails for New York. She arrives at The Dakota and finds herself promoted to managerette. Sara works closely with Theo in getting the building ready for its new occupants. Life is full of possibilities in America. Will Sara find the happiness she has been yearning for in America?
Bailey Camden has just been released from Silver Hill, a rehab facility, in New York in 1985. She was hoping to return to her position at Crespo and O’Reilly, but it seems Bailey burned her bridges with them. Her last hope is her cousin, Melinda. Melinda and her twin brother, Manvel own an apartment in the Upper West Side of New York at The Dakota. Bailey has loved the building since she was a child. Her grandfather was a ward of Theodore Camden, who was murdered in that very apartment. Melinda is redecorating and offers the job to Bailey along with a place to live. Melinda’s “style” involves ripping out all the beautiful woodwork and vintage features of the gilded age apartment. In the storage area of the building, Bailey uncovers trunks belong to Theodore Camden and Sara Smythe. Secrets that have long been hidden are about to come to light. Bailey embarks on a journey of discovery. Dark family secrets have a way of coming forth into the light.
I felt that Fiona Davis did a notable job at capturing the historical time-period and setting of New York at it was being developed in 1884. The Dakota (which is a real building in New York and can be viewed online) was a unique apartment building, and I loved reading about the beautiful details put into the building (along with the gorgeous dress descriptions). I preferred Sara’s chapters over Bailey’s (especially in the beginning). In a way, I wish the whole novel had been about Sarah and what happened to her. It was interesting to see how Ms. Davis tied the past to Bailey Camden in 1985. I am rating The Address 3 out of 5 stars. The story is interesting but it has an expected ending (especially regarding Theodore). I was hoping the author would surprise me, but I was let down. I accurately guessed how the story would play out. I found the pace of the novel to be slow which can be attributed to the amount of detail provided by the author. While I love her descriptions and historical accuracy, the do make for a slow-moving story. Bailey’s chapters had a faster pace but they were less captivating (the 80s hold little appeal with the terrible fashions, party lifestyle, and the horrible Palm Beach/Miami Vice type décor). I am not enamored with the alternating chapters (the past and present) which seems to be very common lately in books. The Address ended up being a romance novel with a little mystery thrown in.
As good, or better than "The Dollhouse!"
The 100 year timeframe of this book produced such believable characters and a breathless plot that kept me guessing to the very end. I discovered a wonderful new author with "The Dollhouse," and after reading "The Address," I'm convinced Fiona Davis has become a top favorite who's next book I am eagerly awaiting.
While reading this book, I googled the Dakota building & history. Not being a New Yorker, John Lennon's murder at the Dakota was all I knew about the building. Fiona Davis was spot on with her knowledge of the Dakota's history and architecture, and her written descriptions of life at the Dakota, from it's beginning in the late 19th century, to 100 years later was so beautifully rendered, I imagined myself walking its halls and entering its rooms in 1880's dresses w/ corsets and 1980's mini skirts.
If you love historical fiction, as I do, you will love this book. I tore through it in two days because it was very difficult to put down! Thank you, Fiona Davis for a GREAT read.
Enjoyable and intriguing