The Dollhouse

by Fiona Davis
Published by Random House
Contemporary Fiction

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Gilbert’s superb audio adaptation of Davis’s debut mystery, set in N.Y.C., at the renowned Barbizon Hotel, formerly a women-only residence to famous luminaries, is a highly skilled performance of this suspenseful love story, whose characters inhabit two timelines. Present-day journalist Rose hits a crisis when her boyfriend, whom she lives with at the Barbizon, now a condo building, gets back with his ex-wife and kicks Rose out. Rose learns that a rent-controlled floor of the Barbizon has elderly women residents from its midcentury heyday, and that one of the women, Darby, was involved in a maid’s death in 1952. With Darby out of town, Rose squats in Darby’s apartment and begins unraveling the mystery of the death of Esme, the maid. Gilbert is brilliant with Esme’s full-throated, lovely Puerto Rican accent. Gilbert has nearly flawless range and control with the many characters, hitting a real high mark with the contrast between Esme’s confident, pushy, and highly emotional big-city character and Darby, a self-conscious innocent from a small town. In Gilbert’s capable hands, the story’s message about courage and self-reliance is loud and clear. Publishers Weekly


New York City’s famed Barbizon Hotel is the scene of two plots, set more than 60 years apart, about women freeing themselves from the expectations of others. This audiobook is an excellent example of how a skillful narrator can improve a relatively pedestrian story by infusing its characters with warmth, distinct and distinctive voices, and just enough drama in their conversations to make the audience feel fully present. Tavia Gilbert’s capacity to create and maintain the voices of men and women from multiple cultures—some of whom appear in both plots—thus, at different ages—brings the action to life. When the storylines converge, Gilbert makes us glad we stayed with the contemporary and immature reporter long enough for her to plumb the secrets of the failed secretarial student and the hotel maid whose lives changed forever in 1952. AudioFile Magazine