Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis {ends 8/27}

Review by: Karen Doerr

“You must have seen many changes during your stay here.”
“More than you know. This place used to have a tenants’ dining room, down on the main floor, though the food got less interesting after the war, and they eventually closed it down. By then the tailor had moved out, as had the laundry and maid service. No one valued what a special place this was. In the sixties, I remember, before it became a co-op, you could rent a seventeen-room apartment with six bathrooms and eight working fireplaces for six hundred and fifty bucks a month.”

I had a hard time putting this book down. This is my first experience with Fiona Davis’ work. According to an interview, she was influenced by the Goethe quote “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music.” The author added another layer to this by turning the architecture of The Dakota into prose.

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Address, by Fiona Davis
Official Synopsis:
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.

If somebody had told me I’d enjoy a book based around a building in New York, I would have thought that they were nuts. I had never heard of The Dakota before this, although I took some time to read over its history after I finished The Address. While I enjoy historical fiction, I tend to stay with the stories based around more famous periods of time.

The author sets up two timelines, one from the 1880’s and the other from the 1980’s. One could argue that the death of John Lennon, which happened in 1980, is the Dakota’s greatest claim to fame. However, I found the older setting more interesting. Maybe it’s due to my lack of knowledge about this era in general, but I found myself drinking in every little detail about a world where the Upper West Side is considered the middle of nowhere. While I did find the modern story arc more relatable, I rushed through those chapters trying to get back the more alien world of the 1880’s. But one does not need to be a history nerd to enjoy it. I would recommend this book to anyone who, at some point, felt like they were in a situation that they did not deserve.

My only complaint about The Address was how one timeline got a fairy tale ending. We went into the story knowing that one of the main characters would have a tragic outcome, so I can understand why the author would want the other be a contrast. However, both have a very extravagant feeling to them. I think a sharper distinction would have been made had the more upbeat ending been a bit more realistic and less sunshine and roses.

4 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}

Karen K. Doerr is a vocal advocate of the “It’s Called Soda, Not Pop” movement of Southeast Michigan. She can usually be found in Korean barbecue restaurants.


One of my lucky readers will win a hardcover copy of The Address!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, August 27th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Hardcover copy of The Address


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