The Address by Fiona  Davisby Fiona Davis

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Dutton Books
5 Stars *****

Synopsis: 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.

My Review: 

In this wonderful historical fiction novel, we have two narrators, Sara Smythe in 1884/1885 and Bailey Camden in 1985. The story begins in 1884 as we are introduced to Sara Smythe in London, England. She is the head housekeeper at a swanky hotel where she save the life of a young girl teetering on a window ledge. The father, Theodore Camden meets Sara to thank her and is quiet impressed by this young lady. He offers her a job at the soon to open Dakota apartment building in New York City. Sara decides to accept the job, but once she arrives is immediately promoted to Manageress. 100 years later we meet Bailey. Fresh out of rehab and with no job, she accepts the offer of her “cousin” Melinda Camden to renovate her apartment in the Dakota as well as a place to stay in the meantime. Bailey and Sara are both trying their best to take control of their own lives. Sara has tragedy befall her through no fault of her own, and Bailey finds information that might just help her find where she belongs.

The novel is well researched, and a great read, in fact I had a hard time putting it down. The two story lines meshed so well together and even though I had figured out certain things in the story, the ending surprised and delighted me. Another reviewer put it perfectly when she said, “The Address” tells a rich story of New York, alternating between the gilded age of the late 1800s and the “Greed is good” indulgences of the 1980s. I felt like I was there, I could see the world so well through her writing. A great read for any lovers of historical fiction as well as those wanting to know about life in New York during those time periods. Thanks to Penguin’s First to read program for giving me the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book.