The Dollhouse had all the elements of a hit. It was set in New York in the 1950’s at the Barbizon hotel for women. I think I was expecting a story where a woman learns about herself in New York. Here, there were two narratives sixty years apart that didn’t help each other. I didn’t like the characters at all and hated their stories even more. And that is why I was so disappointed that this novel was a disappointment.
Darby was a homely woman whose experience in New York at the famed hotel had potential since she was determined to be self supporting and not just become a secretary to land her future boss as a husband. But her story was beyond boring. She didn’t do anything exciting in New York and was too shy to take advantage of her surroundings even when she landed in a location that offered adventure. I was equally frustrated with the protagonist in the present. Rose was desperately attached to a married man who wouldn’t leave his family. She put herself into a corner when she abandoned her apartment and gave up her job to accommodate the slacker boyfriend. Her father’s illness was also a depressing addition to her narrative.
In both tales, the conversations between the characters were too long and just mind numbing. I kept reading because I convinced myself that the story behind how a girl fell off the hotel’s roof would be interesting, and somehow save this depressing story. Not even that shocking event was exciting. There are so many great period stories set in New York that I would recommend over this one. Here are a few: The Other Typist, The Chaperone, and Astor Place Vintage.