Friday, July 15, 2016

A Mystery from the Fifties in the Barbizon Hotel for Women

In the 1950s the Barbizon Hotel was home to young women trying to make it in New York as models, secretaries, and actresses. At that time, the girls were subject to strict rules about curfew, and men in the rooms, and overseen by a house mother. Today, the old hotel has been renovated as condos, but not all the old residents are gone. Ten of them live on the fourth floor. In their seventies and eighties, these ladies know the stories of the Barbizon including the story of a fight between a maid and one of the residents that ended in a death.

Rose, a former TV anchor, lives in one of the condos with her recently divorced lover, Griff. She desperately wants the relationship to work, but he has ties to his other family, and the relationship is deteriorating. With Griff away a lot, she becomes fascinated by the older residents. The story of the fight impels her to learn more about it even if some of her tactics border on unethical.

The history of the Barbizon hotel is fascinating reading. The story is told from two points of view, Darby, a young woman who lived in the hotel in the 50's, and Rose, who lives there in 2016.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the setting. It made the New York of the 50's come alive. I was less enthusiastic about the characters. Possibly because the novel moves back and forth frequently, the characters felt flat and not well developed. The mystery of what happened in the fatal accident keeps you reading to know what happened and ends with a twist.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.