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Sunday, October 22, 2017

REVIEW: The Address by Fiona Davis @duttonbooks @fionajdavis

The Address
by Fiona Davis
Dutton Books


Huge thank you to Dutton Books for this copy!

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 literally just turned the last page and let me just say - WOW.  I'm usually not big on historical fiction.  It's probably one of my least favorite genres.. however, when Dutton Books sends you a book, you READ IT.  I've never been disappointed with their books and this is no exception.  

The character build in this book is astounding.  You really feel for Sara back in 1884/1885 and for Bailey, a hundred years later, in 1985.  To see how their lives intersect is extremely well done by the author.  For the first 50 pages I was wondering where this could possibly be going.  So I took a little break and opened it this morning and never looked back.

I think one of my favorite moments in the book was the reference to Nellie Bly.  I learned about her last year around this time and have her book, 10 days in a Mad House, and love that she is brought into this book as a part of this history.  I have this book and still need to read it and this now just propels me to do so.

Back to The Address.  Reading about Sara's life - she just wanted to do better for herself after a horrid experience at an internship that she had.  She vows not to follow in her mother's footsteps and yet finds herself in love with a married man, who is in an "arrangement" with his wife.  The standard tale or so it seems.  Her strength as a woman shines through as the story unfolds and goes in a direction that I completely did NOT see coming.

Bailey also has had a rough go at life and is also trying to do better for herself as well.  In the mid 80s in NYC, there's Limelight (LOVE this reference as well) and the inability almost to keep away from drinking and drugs and the nightlight this city offers at all hours of the day and night.  Bailey's journey to the end of the book was also a pleasure to watch.

The author really brings you a sense of both historical times - the 1880's and the 1980's to where you feel like you're right there - a fly on the wall watching the scenes in front of you.  Some horrific, some beautiful and all too realistic.

While it did take me a little bit to get into the story and you could see where a certain plot line was going, all of the sudden BAM, this one hit me right in the face and I was pleasantly and lovingly surprised.  Certainly didn't see a couple twists in the midst.  There's a thousand things I could go on and on about this book but I fear it would spoil it for those of you who haven't read this yet.  And if you haven't, I suggest you do.



  1. Great review! I am definitely going to have to put this one on my list. I don't normally read a lot of historical fiction either so sounds like if you like it I just might too!

    1. Thanks Mary! It turned out to be such a pleasant surprise! I hope you enjoy it like I did :)