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Thewanderingjew

Thewanderingjew

Just a very good story with some interesting history.

The Address: A Novel - Fiona Davis

The Address, Fiona Davis, author; Brittany Pressley, Saskia Maarleveld, narrators There are two competing narratives in this novel. In both, two women are featured. Each of the main characters is separated by a century, and each has a protagonist who is also an antagonist at different times. Often like a soap opera, with various characters leading complicated lives, generally engaging in some foolish behavior involving poor choices, it was nevertheless an enjoyable read. Although the mystery is obvious from the beginning, the eventual outcome is not. In the early story, a young woman, Sara Smythe, comes to America from England, in 1885, to start her new life in a place that enables her to rise above her station with hard work and dedication. Because of a serendipitous occurrence, she is offered the job of head housekeeper, and then lady managerette, in a new building rising on a plot of land in the largely unoccupied and less preferable west side of Manhattan. The building, called the Dakota, remains a landmark today. Sara seems uniquely qualified to handle any situation that comes her way. For some readers, this may be a challenging idea, difficult to believe. Her antagonist/protagonist is Minnie Camden, the wife of an up and coming architect, Theodore Camden, who is involved in the design of this new rental building which will present its occupants with a lifestyle that was heretofore not available in the city. Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances and decisions, Minnie Camden is fated with the task of raising Sara’s illegitimate child. Sara, herself, is the illegitimate child of her mother and the Baron she worked for in England. The ancestry of certain characters is the thrust which moves this story forward. Although most of the characters are fictitious, the landmarks mentioned and the lack of women’s rights coupled with the difficulties they faced as a result, very much existed in the real world. In the parallel story, taking place in 1985, a woman, Bailey Camden, a designer, is a recovering alcoholic. Just recently out of rehab, she is redecorating her cousin’s apartment in the very same apartment building, the Dakota, which has now become a tourist attraction. One of its occupants, John Lennon, was murdered. His wife remained a resident after his death. Strawberry Fields was created in Central Park in his memory. The Dakota is an unusual building that today no longer offers the pampering it once did, but still remains a very important and exclusive address. Bailey’s antagonist is her “cousin” Melinda. They are not real cousins since Bailey’s grandfather, Christopher Camden, was the ward of her great grandparents, Theodore and Minnie Camden and was not believed to be a blood relation. Bailey spends a good deal of her time trying to find out the history of her family’s true heritage. Bailey seems uniquely qualified to ruin every opportunity she is dealt, by abusing her upwardly mobile lifestyle with too much partying, and then after rehab, by making other choices that are not well thought out. Both women were searching for independence and success. Both stories shine a light on the lack of influence that women have in many situations and couples it with their helplessness and vulnerability because of their lack of power. Often, they had no way to fight back against injustices done to them. Often, they had to rely on help from a male counterpart to succeed or achieve justice in their lives. Often, these male counterparts, unfairly, had the power to ruin their lives, even going so far as to have them committed to institutions. Although it had a fairy tale ending, with everything neatly tied together in what some might consider a very contrived manner, it held my interest totally. The power of journalism, a disappearing art form, and the history of New York were very well represented as the plight of women was highlighted. The elitism of the very wealthy was evidenced by their treatment of those who were not as well off. Their conspicuous condescension, and their cavalier approach to drugs and alcohol, highlighted the decadence that existed in both centuries. The prose was easy to follow and the narrators were expressive without taking over the character’s role, but rather enhancing it.