The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

At the Barbizon Residential Hotel, young women new to New York City, but with ambitions far beyond the small towns they came from, are able to stay in a safe retreat. Beautiful models and secretarial students from the nearby Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School mingle in the hallways and common areas.

When Darby McLaughlin arrives in 1952 to study at the secretarial school, she feels like a plain Jane country hick compared to the sophisticated models. Her only friend, Esme, a maid at the hotel, introduces her to life beyond the shelter of the Barbizon- a life of nightclubs ambition and maybe some romance.

By 2016 the Barbizon has been converted to luxury condominiums. And Rose Lewin, a disgraced journalist, has just been kicked out of her married lover’s condo because he wants to get back with his wife “for the sake of the children.” By this time though, Rose has met a few of “the women,” as they are known- longtime residents from the glory days when the building was still a residential hotel.  Conversations with some of the women has given her an idea for a story. She’s heard rumors of the death of a hotel made back in the 1950s that involves one of the women, Darby, with whom she’s had some minimal conversation.

Rose’s investigation becomes a distraction from her own disintegrating life, her breakup, her current job that she hates, and the failing health of her beloved dad.  But since some of the clues Rose has found while investigating the story may have been found in ethically questionable ways, Rose may be risking everything in pursuit of the story.

This was an interesting book about an iconic New York City landmark.