New York City’s historic Dakota Apartments served as a backdrop to love, loss, dreams, desire, and identity in Fiona Davis’ The Address. Behind the walls of the famous residence, lines crossed, never to untie again. Davis presented her story via the dual perspectives and timelines of Sara Smythe, an English immigrant in 1885 and Bailey Camden, party girl turned interior designer in 1985. These characters connect without ever meeting. But, their connection demonstrated how precious the story’s themes stretch generations.
Prior to reading this tale, The Dakota’s majesty and reputation spoke to me. John Lennon’s murder occurred there. “Rosemary’s Baby” used the complex as its setting. Famous artists, such as Roberta Flack, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, and Albert Maysles, chose the grandeur as their residence. Thus, on setting alone, I wanted to read this book. I’m glad I made the choice. Davis clearly adored the place as her research shows hours of information, granting full transparency of The Dakota’s history and personality. As the reader enters the complex’s walls, you’re sucked in, wishing you signed a lease to stay.
Furthermore, NYC’s historical background granted more than enough to strike an interest. Davis included slivers of actual moments, such as the delivery of the Statue of Liberty and the dawn of New York City before the first skyscraper. You felt the hunger and determination of the fresh faces, desperate to get by to the next day.
Verdict: A, Davis’ research showed throughout the story.
Davis set a clear plot without much confusion. In 1885, Sara Smythe worked as the head housekeeper of a grand London hotel, when one day, she saves the life of a little girl. As a token of appreciation, the little girl’s father, an architect, invited her to work for him, promising higher status than earned there. With secrets and a past, she wished to avoid, Sara accepts the position and immigrates to NYC, fresh-faced and fresh in reputation. Once there, she serves as the head manager (“managerette” in prefeminist terms at the time). However, after a brief tryst, she struggles to get her head above water after a series of hardship and mistreatment.
Whereas, in 1985, down and out of rehab, Bailey Camden wished to create a new start. She’s a social pariah after an embarrassing moment at a party, threatening her interior designing career. Given the chance to restart, she makes the most of her new opportunity, but when curiosity strikes her, she finds more than she expected underground.
Verdict: B, Melodrama mashed with a straight-forward story of the aforementioned themes in an given Aaron Spelling series kept me interested as it would another reader.
Outside of your basic characters, like her father, a love interest, and cousin, focus stayed on three characters: Sara Smythe and Bailey Camden.
Sara left home to seek a new life and when she arrives, not understanding the costs involved, she suffered, but never faltered under someone’s thumb. She’s a strong character, no matter how others treat her. Additionally, we saw how women and the mentally ill’s mistreated in this story during one of her experiences. Sara held her hair high.
On the other hand, Bailey’s less strong, but still doesn’t quite gives up. She completed her rehab, and despite shunning from snooty packs, she’s determined to make a way for herself.
Both women hunger for something fresh and exciting. Yet, they refuse to leave their backbones behind and sell themselves short for an easier life. While I found Sara’s chapters more riveting, Bailey’s provided glue I didn’t know I wanted.
Verdict: B, While there’s some paint by numbers characterization, Sara and Bailey kept my attention.
A bit slow in the beginning, as aforementioned, Davis put the work in her story. Sometimes, she threw in a lot of history and description, which slowed the pace. Once the story gained its footing, the pacing quickened.
Verdict: C, Too much research bogs the story down. Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.
This good story, albeit tragic and serious, about two strong-willed women seeking their paths amid drama, scandal, and joy entertained me. However, this story slowed a bit in the beginning and engrossed me during Sara’s chapters than Bailey’s. But, I’d recommend this tale for historical fiction lovers nonetheless.
Verdict: 3/5 Dakota lease agreements
*Thanks to Penguin’s First Reads for this reading opportunity in exchange for an honest review*