Title: The Address
Author: Fiona Davies
Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
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.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Samuel Bonner from Penguin for sending me a review copy of The Address.
I was initially drawn to the cover of The Address – yes, once again judging a book by its cover – it is beautiful. The jacket design is beautiful to look at and is even more sumptuous when you have a physical copy. It initially draws you in with the black and white background and colour image of a woman in the foreground. The image filled me with intrigue. I had to read this book.
The Address is a story told from multi-perspective; two different time zones with two different feisty characters. In the late 1880s we meet Sara Smythe: the manageress of a busy London hotel who gets the opportunity to work in New York as the manageress of the soon to be opened Dakota. With upward mobility and adventure on her mind Sara travels to New York for this new life. But is she in danger of being swept away by the romance of the land of opportunity?
Sara’s counterpart is Bailey Camden whose experience of New York couldn’t be more different than that of Sara. Eighties New York was the land of the “Yuppie” – drink and drugs were rampant and Bailey has been a victim of a drug fuelled haze. With the risk of falling back on her negative ways Bailey grabs on to every opportunity to keep her head above water. This includes the mystery of the Camden family and their sordid history that is entrenched in the Dakota buildings.
Whilst both protagonists are very different their lives parallel each others in the sense that they are both restricted by their circumstances, those being: money, family status and being a woman.
I really loved The Address. Fiona Davis transported me to the other side of the world and back in time. Personally, I preferred Sara Smythe’s story. I constantly felt bound which shows the power and skill of Davis’s writing. Without giving too much away, the way in which Davis dealt with the issues surrounding mental health was compassionate but equally terrifying and called upon a genuine fear of mine. At times reading Sara’s story I struggled to breathe.
With plot twists and characters that you loved and that you loved to hate, Fiona Davis has really accomplished great things with The Address. It was a joy to read.
The Address by Fiona Davis is available now.
For more information regarding Fiona Davis (@FionaJDavis) please visit www.fionadavis.net.
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