The Address by Fiona Davis
Published by Penguin
Date of Publication: August 1, 2017
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.
This my first novel by Fiona Davis and I can promise you that is will not be the last. I saw this book on the list of “read for review” books on NetGalley and I immediately requested it for review. The cover, which I hope is the one the publisher settles on, drew me in and being that in the past few months I have been fascinated with the 19th Century in New York, this was a no brained for me.
The story revolves around one of the most famous or infamous buildings in Manhattan, one where many celebrities still live, the same one where John Lennon was shot…. One that still today stands tall and is visible from Central Park (see the cover). The Dakota….. it’s 1884 and it’s about to open and Sara Smythe came all the way from England to work and live there and found herself in love with one of the architects. But it’s more than the story of a woman and a man. This is the story of one family, of love and deception, of what secrets can do to a family and of forgiveness and the need we all have to belong and sometimes no belong.
The author does a great job at working two stories in parallel. At the same time we are reading about the story of Sara and her architect in 1884-85 we are also being shown what is going on in future surrounding the descendants in 1984. The comparison of the Gilded Age and the age of Wall Street and material girls having fun, was not lost on me.
The twists and turns were plenty: throughout the book I felt like I knew what was going to happen at every corner and then the author would turn in a completely different direction and everything would be different. A few pages later, the same thing would happen. I would be feeling like I was totally in control of the scene and bam!!!!!! I was again slammed in a totally different direction. I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for my day to day job I probably would have read the book in one sitting. The language is not flowery or poetic as I have often mentioned in previous reviews. It’s instead raw and honest. The type of voice that hits you right in the core and you cannot help but pay attention.
If there was one part where I felt the book was predictable, was the very end. The hero gets the heroin and all is well in the world…… I’m a bit tired of that but, I cannot think of a different way bring the story to a close so I can’t fault the author for this one either. It’s our own fault for always wanting happy endings….. Yeah, I like happy endings even if they’re predictable.
Although the story takes place during the Fall/Winter and there is mention of snow, I feel as if this is the perfect Summer read. I gave this book a 4 1/2 stars only because as I mentioned the ending was predictable. I cannot wait to read more by this author and add this book to one of my favorites of 2017. Going to recommend it to everyone I know.
I hope you enjoy this review. Until the next one…..