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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: The Address by Fiona Davis

The Address 
by Fiona Davis
Aug 1, 2017
Pages: 367
Penguin Random House
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.

The Address was a fantastic book surrounding the history and life of the first apartment house in New York City, The Dakota. This historical fiction story is expertly written and paints a very vivid picture of what The Dakota and its occupants looked like in 1885. The book goes back and forth between 1885 and 1985 as Bailey, an interior designer that is working on the Dakota, researches the history of Theodore Camdem and Sara Smyth, former occupants of the building.

In 1884, Sara was the head housekeeper in London when she met Theo Camdem and his family. After saving the life of one of his children, he wanted to repay her kindness by offering her a job in America at this new apartment house that he is an architect on. Sara kindly refuses, but when the ticket and money show up to allow her to travel to America she decides that she’s ready for a new adventure and heads to New York. Sara has no idea what awaits her at The Dakota and how her destiny will be forever changed.

In 1985, after Bailey returns from rehab, her “cousin” Melinda offers for her to stay at The Dakota and gives her a job to design and remodel the apartment building to something newer. Bailey has no place to go and no money so decides that the job will give her the opportunity she needs to establish herself on her own as an interior designer. Bailey does not want to throw away all the history of the apartment building and with the help of the Super, Renzo, they decide to place the old building materials and pieces in the basement storage. As they search the storage, clues start to turn up that not all the stories regarding The Dakota are as they seem. Bailey is determined to find the truth about the building and her family as well.

This is the first book I have read of Fiona Davis’s and to say I am impressed is to say the least. Not my usual type of book, but I do have a fondness for historical fiction and decided a change was in order. The book was full of twists and turns which made it easy reading. Be prepared for many surprises all the way to the end!

Getting 5 sheep

Denise B

About the Author:

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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