As you know, I’m done apologizing for occasionally dropping the ball on this blogging lark. For a variety of reasons, this year has been challenging and some things have been neglected as a result.
However, I’ve been reading (albeit more slowly) and I’ll be posting some fresh content in the coming weeks.
First up: Fiona Davis’ The Address.
When Sara Smythe, head housekeeper at a fancy hotel in London, saves the life of Theodore Camden’s youngest daughter, she finds herself the recipient of a job offer: to be the manager at the hotel apartment he’s building in New York City. In 1884, the chance to move to New York, the chance to be defined by her work instead of her station is massive. She takes the job. Sara soon becomes very close with Theodore, especially since his wife and three children have yet to move into The Dakota.
A hundred years later, Bailey Camden is at a loose end. Fresh out of rehab, after a humiliating night out on the town, Bailey doesn’t have a job or a place to live. When her cousin asks for her help redecorating her apartment at The Dakota, Bailey jumps at the chance to rebuild her interior decorating career. She’s also always loved the apartment and the history of the building. Unfortunately, since her grandfather was just the ward of Theodore Camden, Bailey doesn’t stand to inherit anything from the estate. But when she finds old suitcases in the basement, she may have stumbled onto some of the answers of who killed Theodore Camden in his apartment all those years ago.
So this book should have been right up my alley: a murder mystery, a woman doing a man’s job ahead of her time, some historical context, it wasn’t told in the first person.
(You knew there was going to be a but)
Sara is framed as a modern woman, one who rose above the murky origin of her birth, who survived the advances of man who was in charge of her at a delicate age. But she throws all of that away to be with a man, who is married to someone else. Bailey is frustrated by everyone around her not giving her what she thinks she deserves, is jealous of her cousin’s wealth and will do just about anything to pretend she lives at the same level.
These are not the kinds of heroines that I enjoy spending time with.
There is a whole story arc about how easy it was to dispose of troublesome women, through asylums, making women seem crazy or hysterical and then locking them up. It felt like as soon as I was settling into this part of the story, I was taken back to 1985 and Bailey trying to figure out her life, and her family history.
I was frustrated by both Sara and Bailey as they each sacrifice things for the men in their lives. Bailey has just finished a stint in rehab and knows she needs to stay away from any relationships for a year and as soon as she’s out she finds herself attracted to the building manager at The Dakota. And Sara risks a lot more in 1884, even though she knows from her mother’s experience that this is not the smartest thing to do.
I think The Address could have benefited from more time – had the book been longer, there would have been more room to fully realize the characters and the settings. Instead, it felt rushed and incomplete. The murder mystery, while sometimes intriguing, wasn’t that skillfully drawn out. There was a complete lack of tension as Bailey tries to figure out what happened.
In the end, everything is tidied up a little too well but not in any way that gave this reader a modicum of satisfaction.
I didn’t reach my “throw the book across the room” level of frustration with The Address but there was a lot of muttering and sighing as I read.
Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book.