Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Who Lived in THE DOLLHOUSE?

"Davis’s impeccably structured debut is equal parts mystery, tribute to midcentury New York City, and classic love story. . . .
Publishers Weekly (starred review)



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I didn’t plan to make this rites of passage week, but it’s turning out that way. Yesterday, our pre-teens. Today, coming of age. Maybe. Do you remember the first place you lived all on your own?

I was 20, and, post-college, lived in a cute house (two bedrooms, LR, DR, bath, kitchen, driveway) on Illinois St. in Indianapolis. It was adorable, and such fun to share with my roommate (and still pal) Sharon. Our rent was $100. Total. A month. We scrimped and shared food and painted it ourselves and worked 7 days a week (I had two jobs, as a radio reporter and on weekends as an art galley helper, and Sharon sold real estate) and wow, we were on our own.

But you know the Barbizon? Of course you do. Think how many women were on their own for the first time there? And the brilliant Fiona Davis took that iconic apartment building in NYC and turned it into an acclaimed novel.

Here’s a bit about THE DOLLHOUSE—and I dare you not to gasp with, well, either mad desire to read it, or mad envy for not having thought of it. 

Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.” 

Okay, love it, right?

Fiona and I shared an event with Amy Poeppel (Small Admissions) and  Rachel Hulin (Hey Harry Hey Matilda) in Providence with Robin Kall Homonoff---here we are. (And in real life, we actually were in focus.)  It was great fun, and I’m so pleased to introduce her to you all.

(And we’re giving away a copy of THE DOLLHOUSE to a lucky commenter)
 
HANK: So, Fiona. How did you come up with this brilliant idea?

FIONA DAVIS: I stumbled on it.  A few years ago, I was apartment hunting in New York City and my broker took me to the Barbizon 63 condo, in what used to be the Barbizon Hotel for Women. While I didn’t take the apartment, the building had great bones and an intriguing history – the perfect setting for a work of historical fiction. Built in 1927, the Barbizon Hotel was the go-to place for cultured young women to live in while they worked or studied in New York City, the place where icons like Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Joan Didion and Eudora Welty got their start

HANK: Whoa. Yes, it’s so incredibly intriguing—when you think of all the women who lived there, and the changes that unfolded over the years. And why it existed in the first place! How’d you tackle the approach you’d take?

FIONA: I’d been working as a journalist for many years, but the thought of turning a story idea into fiction was a new one. So I approached it the same way I would an article: do the research, figure out the main characters, make an outline and off you go. “How hard could it be?” I thought to myself.  

HANK: Famous last words. I have said them myself. And so?

FIONA: But as I researched and plotted, my ambition got way ahead of me. Perhaps if I’d stuck to the historical fiction genre, I might have gotten off easy. But I had the insane idea to write about two time periods – the 1950s and today – and not only that, I simply had to add a mystery element into the plot.

HANK: Two timelines, two sets of characters, tons of research to make sure the period details are right, AND make it a mystery?

FIONA: Anyone with good sense might have stopped right there. But I adored the work of paragons like Agatha Christie, Laura Lippman, and Elizabeth George, so it was crucial to me to have a question that was answered at the end of the book, in a way that my readers least suspected.

I’ve never been a fan of books that meander along, examining the minutiae of a person’s soul. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a reader, I crave mysteries because they engage not only my imagination, but my powers of reasoning. You know what I’m talking about - that running commentary in your mind as you turn the pages: Was that a red herring? Or a clue? If the author is overtly pointing my attention to this character as the murderer, who else might have done it? So weaving a mystery element in to THE DOLLHOUSE was non-negotiable.

HANK: We’re all with you on that. But back to that setting. Who’d you talk to?

FIONA:  As part of my research, I interviewed ex-guests who’d stayed there in the 1950s and 60s and was surprised to learn there was a lot of talk of ghosts and suicides among the guests, because every so often a distraught young girl would throw herself off the balcony, and that this was often hushed up in the press.

There was my angle. In my book, a heartsick journalist moves into what’s now the Barbizon condo and starts investigating a tragedy that occurred to her downstairs neighbor – an elderly woman with a terrible scar and a dark secret.

HANK: And then what?

FIONA:  Over multiple drafts, the story grew to encompass a number of themes, from women’s roles at work and at home to the challenges of aging, but what kept me sitting at my desk was the fun of revealing the unknown: what really happened back then?

HANK: Well it certainly worked! Here’s the rest of that PW starred review! “Darby and Rose, in alternating chapters, weave intricate threads into twists and turns that ultimately bring them together; the result is good old-fashioned suspense." 

Hurray!

I don’t think anything as glamorous and suspenseful happened in my first place alone—does cutthroat Charades count? But I treasure that time.  How about you, Reds? The first time you lived on our own—not school—where was it?

And we’ll give away a copy of THE DOLLHOUSE to one lucky commenter!
  

Fiona can be found on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  


Fiona Davis

Fiona was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional theater. After 10 years, she changed careers, working as an editor and writer and specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, dance and theater. 

She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is based in New York City. She loves nothing better than hitting farmer’s markets on weekends in search of the perfect tomato, and traveling to foreign cities steeped in history, like London and Cartagena. THE DOLLHOUSE is her first novel.


THE DOLLHOUSE


When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
 
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

112 comments:

  1. “The Dollhouse” sounds like such an intriguing story, Fiona . . . I’m really looking forward to reading your book. Congratulations on the wonderful reviews . . . .

    Where did I first live on my own? I schlepped across the country and lived in California where I worked two jobs while I went back to school for my Master’s degree. Sometimes [well, most times] I didn’t know if I was coming or going . . . .

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    1. Or, I can just picture that, 'Joan! We all worked so hard, didn't we?

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    2. Thanks, Joan. I also went back to school to get a Master's and know what you're talking about! I loved being back at school, but it was quite a scramble.

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  2. This sounds very intriguing for sure.

    The first place I lived on my own? Well, I had three apartments in the first six months I was living on my own after college. Here in the town where I live now (and where I went to college for that matter). I had trouble finding good roommates originally. Still doing the roommate thing, although my current roommate travels so much, it's like I live along (which is a blessing and a curse - I've no motivation to pick up after myself). However, when he moves out, I will try living completely alone for the first time in my life. I thought I was excited for that, but as it gets closer, I'm not so sure.

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    1. I agree Mark, living alone for the first time can be daunting. But when I did it, it was absolutely great. It's really freeing,… Wait till you try it!

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    2. Thanks for posting, Mark. The Barbizon was interesting in that every guest had her own room, but then shared a bathroom - kinda like a glorified dorm. Which took the roommate issue out of it - and we all know can be tricky!

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  3. My first place alone was a room in a hippie dive near the corner of Hollywood and Vine. When I was out of work and lonesome or bored, I'd walk down Hollywood Boulevard and talk to the army recruiter. He was good for a cup of coffee and a donut. I played that for awhile and called home for money to register for school. That turned out to be a good move.

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    1. Oh, Reine, your life is so cinematic! How did you avoid enlisting :-)

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    2. Love that, Reine. Sounds like the beginning of a good novel, to be honest!

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    3. Hank, when the army recruiter told me the coffee and donuts were about to run out, I said I'd like to sign up. He had the papers ready to go and got to a part where I had to reveal marital status. I panicked and told him I was married! And yes, I have a lot of crazy and true stories. We have only touched the doorbell.

      Thanks, Fiona. I might give that one a try! Love the sound of your book. I am always on the lookout for books featuring women. My senior divinity paper advisor pushed me in that direction when she assured me fiction was good and not to get sucked into male dominated theology or literature. She was great. So was her husband. Best wishes for you and THE DOLLHOUSE!

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  4. What a fabulous premise, Fiona! Putting the book on my list, for sure. One of my series is historical - but it stays firmly in the past.

    I lived with roommates after college in Orange County, California, and then in a drafty little house with an American boyfriend in Japan for a couple of years, but my first solo place was a studio apartment on the square in Bloomington, Indiana for $100/month, utilities included. To say studio apartment makes it sound fancy. It wasn't. The sleeping loft was a wide shelf above tiny galley kitchen. The floors were heated and I had to keep a window open even when it was snowing so I didn't roast to death. But I loved it. I studied there, walked to my PhD classes, held dinner parties, brought a man or two home to my loft. It was one of the happiest times in my life.

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    1. Dinner parties at that time of our lives…that was such an indication of being a grown-up, right? I remember so fondly fondue, and all of us sitting on the floor. I also mastered chicken Kiev and fettuccine Alfredo. And we were really big on games, especially charades. Do you remember what you cooked, Edith?

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    2. Yes to sitting on the floor! Quiche Lorraine, I remember, and my famous pesto on pasta. Oh and spinach souffle. I even got my first solo Christmas tree in that apartment, little string of lights from the hardware store, and strung popcorn and cranberries for decoration. I felt VERY grown up. I was 25...

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    3. Thank you for posting, Edith. It was a really fun book to write. My first studio apartment was here in NYC, at the top floor of a 5-story walk-up. But it had a tiny working fireplace and I also loved it dearly.

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    4. Edith, Quiche Lorraine was my go-to dinner party dish, as well! I made mine in my microwave, which in 1975, was the first among all my friends.

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    5. Spinach souffle, Edith! A great pal of mine broke up with his girlfriend when she insisted she had made the souffle herself..and her confronted her with the Stouffers boxes. How funny is that!

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    6. Edith, Stouffers is my favorite spinach soufflé!

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  5. This sounds really intriguing. I'll be adding it to my TBR list but certainly not at the bottom.

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    1. Yes, it's just 1000 stories waiting to be told! The real life version would also be fascinating, wouldn't it? But this book is terrific… We should ask her how she mastered all the voices!

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    2. I really appreciate that, Harbinger. There are so many terrific books out - I wish I had more time to curl up in a chair and read away. I enjoyed writing the 1950s character, Darby, as she's a newbie to the big city and quite innocent, in many ways. The character from 2016, Rose, is older (but not necessarily wiser) and a little more cynical. Switching back and forth was fun because I was never bored.

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  6. Fiona, fascinating story! And boy you had big nerve and ambitions for a first novel--and carried it off! wow!

    First time alone? In Knoxville TN, in a little apartment with 2 cats. It was a strange trip through memory lane to find that moment...Mark, it will be a great adventure. And if you don't like it? get another roommate:)

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    1. Knoxville Tennessee, Roberta! How did you wind up there?

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    2. Thank you, Lucy - I had a lovely cat named Zach who lived with me in my first apartment. The pigeons on the fire escape used to drive him batty!

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  7. The Dollhouse sounds like a must read. I always like stories that have an old woman with a dark secret. It's what I love about mysteries the most - they remind us that everyone, especially older people have a past full of sex, lies and secrets just like everyone else.

    My first apartment, shared with a friend/coworker, was in a complex that wasn't in a terrific neighborhood. My tenure there ended with a domestic incident in an apartment across the way in which there was gunfire and broken windows and bullets in the side of my building. I spent the rest of that night sleeping on the floor of the closet and promptly packed up and moved home the next day.

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    1. Wow, Aimee - that must've been terrifying! Glad you got out of that fast. I agree about older characters - after writing the book, I view folks over a certain age in a new light. Especially living in NYC, where you typically share an apartment building with folks of all ages. The ones who've lived here the longest have the best stories to share!

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    2. Aimee, I had an unsettling experience that was scary but not as bad as yours: in my twenties I shared an apartment with another young woman with whom I had some friends in common. After living there a short time I wasn't too keen on the neighborhood. Our apartment was in a three family house. I think we were on the top floor. One Sunday morning at 2AM I woke up to the smell of smoke, and I could hear some odd noises. I jumped up and started looking around the apartment but it seemed to be intact. By then I heard sirens. (I think my room mate was away for the weekend.) When it seemed like the noises were coming from outside I went to the front room and looked up and down the street. I was scared because one of my sisters lived in a similar apartment two houses down to the right, and I needed to make sure she was okay. I didn't see anything when I looked down the street to the right, so I breathed a sigh of relief. There was lots of smoke outside. Off to the left I saw an orange glow, which I guessed was coming from a building down the street and around the corner. I doubt I was able to fall back to sleep. Hours later I heard from my sister, who had also woken up because of the smell of smoke. When she looked outside and saw it was coming from the direction of my building she threw a coat on over her bathrobe and ran down towards my building. Like me, she was relieved that my building was intact. We later heard that the building that burned down was vacant, that two bodies were found in the rubble, and an investigation revealed that the victims were hired to torch the building. Also interesting is that they were from our original hometown.

      Deb Romano

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  8. Oh, Aimee, I guess so! That is the stuff of novels, certainly, but not one you want to be in personally! So much for the joy of being on your own…

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  9. My first time living alone, well with a roommate, lot's of firsts: first teaching job,first time living in a city, first time in an apartment. But it was an adventure and now I look back and realize what babies we were. I can't wait to read The Dollhouse.

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    1. It was an adventure for me, too. I can't believe I came to New York and decided to make it my home. I knew absolutely nothing! Thanks for posting and please let me know what you think of the book--

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    2. Yes, we were such babies! But that's part of the adventure...

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  10. Oh, I love the sound of THE DOLLHOUSE and also love Fiona's need to add mystery to the story - the power of reasoning indeed. We all love that, right? Plus, two time periods. Yep, I'm in.

    As to my first apartment - well, I had gotten a job here in Austin with the state as a tax auditor. My salary, which at the time seemed huge (ha!), led me to a brand new apartment complex and a one bedroom. It was very nice and I decided to rent furniture rather than 'borrow' from my parents. All was well until I ended up with an upstairs neighbor that I'm pretty sure was some kind of 'call girl' (and I'm not kidding). So many men! Different men. And noises. Ha! I stayed the 6 months and moved to another place - a cheaper place and let the folks loan me furniture. Still not sure about that upstairs neighbor. LOL

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    1. Wow, Kay - that's an eye-opening way to begin life as a grown-up! I'm amazed you lasted 6 months. Austin is such a lovely city, I have to say. Thanks for checking out The Dollhouse and for posting--

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    2. Oh, dear...welcome to the real world. ANd yes, I think my first salary was 8,000 a year! I thought I was SO rich!

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  11. The book sounds really fun- I do know someone who lived in the Barbizon in its later days. My own first place was senior year in college and one year after, with roommates. Cambridge, MA, a typical Boston triple-decker. It had been turned into 6 apartments, and we had the first floor back. It was so dark we painted one wall of the living room orange and put up orange sheer curtains, just to simulate some sun! But we loved it. The whole street was young people. We were off cafeteria food. Harvard Sq a short walk away, all of Boston a short hop on the T.When I left for grad school in NY I moved into a grdd women's dorm for awhile. Tiny rooms, bathroom down the hall, no men above the first floor.Quite a step down for me and I moved in with some friends at first possible opportunity

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    1. Triss - this sounds lovely - even the orange wall and curtains! Your grad school digs sound a lot like the Barbizon and I've heard from a number of ex-guests who said they hated the lack of freedom. Others, though, loved the set-up. Ya never know!

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    2. We painted, too..we painted arrows on the walls, pointing up the stairs to the bathroom, SO funny. Sharon was an impeccable painter!

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  13. My first place was a tiny house at Moody Beach in Southern Maine I rented the first winter (September - May, actually) after I graduated from Northeastern. Called Chickadee Cottage, it was sweet in the fall and spring but freezing in the winter. Basically, I could never get warm, and if I made the mistake of leaving my shampoo on the outside wall of the shower, it froze solid.

    But it was across the street from a big, beautiful beach and I was working first out-of-college newspaper job. Heady times.

    I shared Chickadee Cottage with a roommate, a college pal who also was a reporter. She escaped back to Boston most weekends so I had it to myself much of the time and it became my base to explore the lovely state that became my home.

    Chickadee is still there. I drive by every now and when I'm in that area to check on it. I have no idea if the owner still rents it out in the winter. If so, I hope they've added insulation so the poor lil' chicks who live there won't freeze their feathers off like we did.

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    1. Chickadee Cottage on Moody Beach - I'm enthralled, Brenda. And what lovely details - the frozen shampoo, working as a journalist. It all sounds so romantic (if a wee bit chilly). Deep sigh.

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    2. Oh, my goodness, that is perfect. Perfect! YOu must write that book...

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  14. What a great idea! I didn't know the Barbizon was still around. Your mystery is going to be stowed on my Nook soon.
    First place was an apartment built in 1923 in Seattle. I had been on the edge of the home nest flapping my wings to fly while my mom was cheerfully tying the apron strings to my ankles. Finally I got this place, by convincing my mom I needed prepare to be a housefrau. The ground floor apt rented for about $100. a month. Today the same apartment rents for $1500. a month! This was 49 years ago.. Wow, what a nice Birthday Day memory for me.

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    1. Happy Birthday, Coralee! Well done on establishing your independence, especially at that time. The only reason many of the Barbizon residents were allowed to even live in the city was that their parents knew they would be looked after at the hotel, kept safe from boys, etc. (Little did they suspect how many guests would sneak boys up after hours!)

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    2. Happy Birthday, Coralee! ANd there was a certain reassurance to know my parents were there, if I needed them. But I felt it was a matter of pride NEVER to ask.

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  15. What an intriguing concept! I'm looking forward to reading you novel, Fiona. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

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    1. Thank you so much, Cathy! I really appreciate it and good luck--

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  16. Ooo, this one sounds amazing. Must put it on the ever-growing list.

    I never lived on my own - unless you count the few months I was in Puerto Rico/St. Croix working for the government doing disaster relief. I was at college for 4 years, and while I did have a single my senior year, it was still school. Moved back home. Went to the Caribbean for six months. Came home. Got married four months later.

    Every once in a while I feel like I missed the whole "living on your own" thing.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I would think that six months doing disaster relief in the Caribbean equals a six years of independent living in the U.S. Good for you, Mary! And thanks for the post--

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    2. Agreed--that sounds very much on your own!

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    3. I certainly learned one cannot survive on Kraft mac-n-cheese alone. Not well, at least.

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  17. Welcome to JRW, Fiona!

    This brings back memories for me. I lived at Thompson-Markward Hall in Washington, DC. It was like a YWCA for women. It was across the street from one of the Senate Buildings on Capitol Hill. I had my own room, as most people did. I did my laundry although TMH had a cafeteria and they had people cook food for us. TMH had a library where we could read books. I saw a photo of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony for TMH. It was built during the Depression. We could walk from TMH to the Supreme Court, to the Smithsonian Mall, to Union Station and many other places. I think I walked two miles daily when I lived there. They put in a visual smoke alarm that would flash in my room, since I would not be able to hear the smoke alarm. I asked for that before I moved in.

    Fiona, I remember reading that Grace Kelly lived at Barbizon Hotel. When I see that name Barbizon, I think of the modeling agency. Forgive me for asking you. Did I see you on the cover of a fashion magazine?

    Hank, what a small world! My grandfather was born in Indianapolis and his family lived on Illinois street in the 1920s. He was a 4th generation Hoosier.

    This is a great topic!

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    1. WOW. What address, Bib-li? DO you remember?

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    2. Bib-li-o, a dear friend owned the Barbizon Modeling Agency here in Cincinnati for several years. Thanks for the memory nudge!

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    3. Thank you, Bib-li! Your memories are terrific - what a place and time, and the perfect way to take advantage of everything DC had to offer. And you're awfully sweet, but no, I've never modeled. (Thanks for making my day!) Grace Kelly indeed was at the Barbizon, and the Ford Modeling Agency had two floors for their models - a couple of whom make an appearance in The Dollhouse, of course!

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    4. Hank, according to the census, it was house number 2237.

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    5. Fiona, yes, DC was a great place! I met many people from all walks of life!

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  18. Fiona, I look forward to reading your novel!

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  19. The Dollhouse sounds captivating and special. Living with a roommate in a older house which had atmosphere and great comfort was interesting with nooks and crannies was an experience. The house was built in 1947 and was in the university area. I hated to leave this cozy dwelling but I knew that others would enjoy it as much as I did.

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    1. I love the way the ghosts of former residents still seem to haunt the rooms of past houses, Traveler. There's nothing like older houses with great atmosphere - thank you for sharing and posting!

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    2. Yes, so sweet… We all have our time in that special place, you know? And as Fiona found, there are so many stories!

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  20. Fiona, this book sounds like a delicious read. Thank you for sharing the story of how it came to be, so intriguing. Right before I read this morning's blog I was reading about the Waldorf Astoria closing (three years, for reno into condos), and reminiscing about 1970's New York.

    My first on-my-own experience was after first a divorce, then a break-up with a fiance. I moved into a sweet little apartment where I lived for five years, until Steve and I got married. The living room had a Murphy bed closet; there was a hallway between the bedroom and the living room/kitchen/dining room, with a bath at one end and the door to the building hallway at the other. Apparently, the apartment was originally set up for roommates or a small family. Alas, the bed was long gone, but I used it as a sewing room. Close the doors, and any mess was invisible.

    And the rent was, at first, $100 a month. Sounds like we were all coming of age in the same era!

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    1. Murphy bed ! I always wanted that! Was it as cool as it seems?

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    2. I saw the same article about the Waldorf Astoria, Karen. It'll be interesting to see how it transforms. And isn't it amazing to look back at how $100/month rent seemed so expensive at the time! Your first apartment sounds simply lovely.

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    3. Hank, without the bed it was just a closet with double doors. But it made a dandy sewing room.

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  21. This sounds fantastic! Such an amazing setting.

    I grew up in a fairly traditional Filipino family in a questionable area of Chicago. I lived with my parents, grandparents, two younger brothers, two boy cousins, and the occasional family member or friend who needed a place to stay (and we all had to share one bathroom). It was always hectic and busy growing up, and I thought I would never be able to live alone because it would be way too boring.

    Flash-forward: I'm 23 years old, in my last year of university, and I'm given the opportunity to be a student ESL teacher in South Korea for a semester. Suddenly I'm living alone in a foreign country, in a studio apartment in the South Korean countryside, with very basic language skills...and I loved it. The freedom! The adventure! I loved it so much that after I finished my internship, I went home, finished out my last semester, graduated, then went back to Korea to teach for another 3 years. Best of all, I was placed in the same school and the same apartment as when I was an intern. Best years of my life, so far ^^

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    1. Hi Mia - your courage blows me away - I'm so impressed. How wonderful to have that under your belt and to have experienced the world so fully. How adventurous!!

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    2. Thank you! I've always wanted to travel, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. They paid for your airfare, your apartment, a living wage, and full benefits. Plus during my vacation time, I was able to travel around Asia. It really was a life-changing experience.

      Congratulations on your book!

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  22. So far! And yes, I agree, the freedom! It's hard to explain… Just being able to do whatever you want, whoever you want, and not having to Explain it. It also made me very disciplined, you know? I was very proud of my little space.
    So hilarious that you got to go back! Meant to be.

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    1. It really was meant to be. When I signed up to go back, my recruiter told me that my old school had gone through two (rather disastrous) native English teachers after I left. They told the agency that they either wanted me or no native English teacher at all. It was so flattering ^^

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  23. The only time I lived by myself was for six months a year after college when I did an internship in London. Other than that, I was either worn my family, in a dorm, our worth my now husband. Even in London I shared a flat, but not with anyone I knew, so I was definitely more independent.

    Fiona, do setups like the Barbizon still exist? Congrats on the book!

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    1. Hi Ingrid - thank you so much! And what a great question. Yes, there are a few all-women's residences still in existence in New York City, including The Webster, on 34th & 9th Avenue, which was founded in 1923, and the Brandon Residence on West 84th Street. I've spoken to a few young girls who've lived at the Webster and say they loved it.

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    2. Sort of a dorm that's not a dorm, right? With real life instead of classes..

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  24. Oh, I love the premise of this book, Fiona. It's a must read for me. My grandmother was a Yonkers girl and grew up working retail in the city in the 1930's before marrying and moving to CT. She used to tell me stories about her single girl city life - I am still envious - although, I'm sure she edited out the seedier events. Pity. I am delighted to learn of your book - thanks so much for visiting with us!

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    1. I really appreciate your post, Jenn. How wonderful to have been able to hear your grandmother's stories of that time, and I'm sure she appreciated your interest in her life as a single gal. Just lovely.

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    2. It's so exotic and pre-Mad Men. Like a..Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie.

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  25. I am entranced with The Dollhouse. What a treasure of a book. When I was at university which was downtown, I took the bus and subway there everyday since I lived in the same city. I shared a small duplex with another working girl. The experience taught me a great deal about sharing, understanding other personalities, and maturing.

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    1. Thank you, Petite. I agree, when I first came to NYC it was an eye-opening lesson on how millions of people can share one island and still get along. Every day I appreciate having the opportunity to live here.

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    2. Even the bus ride, right? It makes you feel independent, and powerful. And the roommate thing--yeah, that can go either way.

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  26. Fiona, this sounds like just my kind of book. Great concept.

    My first place on my own, in 1971 (any my last until my marriage ended in 1982) was in Vancouver. I lived in a nice little one room flat with my own kitchen and shared bathroom in a big old house in Kitsilano, for $96 a month. An area you likely couldn't touch now without many millions to spend.

    (third stab at this. Is anyone else having trouble commenting with Wordpress? It keeps losing my comment when I sign in)

    Susan D

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    1. Thanks, Susan - Vancouver is such a gorgeous city, and your flat sounds lovely. I appreciate your post!

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    2. Oh, so frustrating, Susan D! Thank you for persisting. And the rents, I know! My little house in Indianapolis sold 7 years ago for more than 300,000, I mean--ah. In Indianapolis! Seven years ago!

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  27. I love those fateful words, "How hard can it be?"
    Similar to , "What could go wrong?"
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  28. Unfortunately I missed out completely! I went straight from college graduation to marriage.Living on my own would have done me a world of good. My husband and I have lived apart for months at a time as he moved to take on a new job and I stayed behind to sell the house, etc. But it's not the same. I can't imagine having TOTAL control on where one lives, what kind of furniture, and so forth. It's always the art of compromise.

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    1. Yup. For a solid year (or so) I had a baked potato with broccoli and sour cream for dinner. I loved it, and no one thought I was nuts.

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    2. There is a sense of relief when you realize you can eat anything you want for dinner, that you don't have to negotiate when it comes to decor or what to watch on TV. The only downside is you're the only one around to walk the dog, rain or shine!

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  29. Welcome Fiona. I look forward to reading THE DOLLHOUSE. I am a reader, not a writer, but the Reds allow me to hang out here because I buy lotsa books.

    I left home for college and then marriage, then children. The first time I even spent a NIGHT on my own was when I was 38 years old. My then partner took our boys, aged 8 and 10, with her to North Dakota on a consultancy, and left me alone in our crappy little apartment. I was terrified, left all the lights on all night.

    Fast forward fourteen years or so and I got my very first apartment, all mine, shared with nobody except the odd visiting child. It was a 1920 over/under duplex, California Colonial. I had the top floor, living room and dining room, adorable kitchen, two bedrooms and a bath. It also had a huge south facing window with a view of the Pacific. This was on Ocean Ave. in Long Beach. It was 1992, and the rent was $800. If I gave up eating, I could afford it. There is something about living across the road from the beach that is incomparable.

    I wish I had a picture. Sigh

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    1. A place on the beach - what a dream! It sounds lovely and who needs to eat, right? I can imagine it perfectly in my head, thank you so much for sharing your story!

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    2. Oh, gosh, who cares about food. SO fabulous.

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    3. Wow, Finta, a bungalow on the beach!

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  30. This looks like a FANTASTIC story -- can't wait to read it! My confession? I have _never_ lived on my own. Next month, when my youngest moves out, will be the first time for me. Luckily I have 3 pooches to keep me company. Freedom calls!

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    1. Oh, wow, kc.That'll be such fun. And we'll all be there with with you!

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    2. Hi KC - I have to say a pooch is the perfect company! Enjoy!

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  31. I can't really explain why I don't have this book. I love the cover, I love the title, and I love the premise of the book. All I can say is that I keep thinking I've ordered it, but I haven't. Fiona, I am looking forward to reading Dollhouse very soon.

    I don't think I had the living on your own experience when I was young. I had an apartment with a friend the last two years of college, but it was college and part of that scene. I often wish now that I hadn't gone from college to marriage so quickly and fit in a bit of independent living first. Of course, I have done a rather backwards approach to the independent living, with my husband having lived elsewhere for fifteen years for work and visits home. However, even that isn't really living on your own.

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    1. Living alone is a state of mind, right, Kathy? And being by yourself can be more fun--if a person you love will be there from time to time. We each make our own independence. ANd you have succeeded like crazy. Hope you are feeling better.. xoxo

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    2. Hank, you are so sweet. After running a high fever last night, I made myself go to the doctor and got a Z-pak and the wonderful steroid shot. Feeling a bit better tonight now. You are one of the most insightful people I have ever known, giving voice to the whole best of both worlds I have. xo

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    3. Kathy, I'm glad you're feeling better. And thank you so much for considering The Dollhouse - please reach out and let me know what you think!!

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  32. The book sounds just great. If it were about the building alone it would sizzle. It sounds so much more binge worthy with all of your added elements.

    I really never lived alone until I was 50 or so. I loved it for awhile and now I live with my son and his children. Thank you for this lovely giveaway chance.

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    1. I agree, Bon, that the building is practically a character in itself! Thanks for sharing and what fun to have your grandchildren around you every day. Best, F.

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  33. This sounds so fascinating! I love all the potential drama. Hmmm right after college with a my boyfriend, now husband, but never alone.

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    1. Doesn't it? You will love the book! And happiness is the goal..however we find it. xoxoo

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    2. Thanks, Jen - how wonderful to have shared memories with your husband like you do!

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  34. This sounds amazing!!! I can already see it as a series, with a TV show and maybe a Hollywood movie. Great ideas!! You must have incredible powers of concentration and organization, along with an astounding memory!! Cannot wait to read this.

    As for me, I lived at home, at college, then in a family home where I helped take care of a school-age child in exchange for my room in grad school. That May, I got married!!

    We lived in married student housing at UC Berkeley where my husband was in law school. Our one bedroom apartment was $67.50 per month, including utilities!!! I loved it.

    I've never lived alone.

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    1. PERFECT TV. Right? Perfect. Crossing fingers...xoxoo

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    2. Denise Ann - that's so awesome of you to say so. I have to admit it would be fun to see who was cast in the lead roles. Your one-bedroom apt sounds so sweet, and in Berkeley, no less!

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  35. And the winner of THE DOLLHOUSE is SUSAN D! Email me your address at h ryan at whdh dot com

    Hurray!

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    1. Congrats Susan D! Please reach out and let me know what you think once you've finished it. Thank you to everyone for such a fantastic day and for sharing your memories with me. And of course, a huge shout-out to Hank for the invitation. Jungle Red rocks!

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  36. Aw, my pleasure! Love you! xoxo And cannot wait for your next book! hank

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