Good Minds Suggest: Fiona Davis' Favorite Historical Fiction Settings

Posted by Goodreads on July 24, 2017

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Author Fiona Davis knows her way around an impressive historical venue. She set her debut novel, The Dollhouse, in New York City's landmark Barbizon Hotel for Women during the 1950s.

Her new book, The Address, returns to enviable New York real estate. The novel plays out within the walls of the iconic apartment building the Dakota. Here readers will uncover a mystery that connects two women—one living in the 1880s, the other in the 1980s.

First there's Sara Smythe, who in 1884 travels from England to become the female manager of the Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. One hundred years later, Bailey Camden, an interior designer and recovering party girl with a family history connecting her to the Dakota, oversees the renovation of an apartment in the building. As her work begins, Bailey uncovers a century-old secret of murder and madness within the building's walls.

While writing The Address, Davis extensively researched what life, and architecture, was like in New York City during the 1880s, interviewing designers, architects, and historians. Here she shares some of her favorite historical settings that housed unforgettable novels.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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"Is there anything more luscious than 1950s Hollywood, particularly as seen through the eyes of up-and-coming starlet Evelyn Hugo? Jenkins Reid sweeps the reader across L.A., from the Formosa Cafe to Grauman's Chinese Theatre to Spago, recounting three decades of husbands and lovers, rivalries and secrets. Fasten your seat belts—it's a splendid ride."

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
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"In the opening of Shattuck's harrowing novel, a Bavarian castle is the site of a festive, high-society party held on the eve of WWII. Later the ruin provides shelter for three widows of resistance fighters—men who conspired to assassinate Hitler in 1944—and practically becomes another character. Shattuck's description of the ransacked rooms, with the grand piano mangled and the antique beds hacked, reflects the insidious way fervent nationalism ultimately decimated civilized society."

Longbourn by Jo Baker
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"As a kid, my family went back to Great Britain to visit family, and to break up the long drives we'd stop at manor houses and palaces along the way. What a dream it would have been to take a tour through Longbourn, Jane Austen's fictional estate from Pride and Prejudice, but luckily Baker provides the next best thing. She turns a classic on its head, writing from the point of view of the servants. The mundane tasks of running a household are interwoven with a glorious love story, and the result is a powerful step back in time."

The Alienist by Caleb Carr
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"This classic hits all the high points for me: It's set in Gilded Age New York City and mixes real-life historical figures (Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan) with fictional ones (the alienist of the title). The story takes the reader inside the well-appointed mansions of the rich as well as the crime-ridden tenements of the poor, offering an unflinching look at the class distinctions of the time. Toss in a crime reporter investigating a murder mystery, and I'm in historical fiction heaven."

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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"I listened to this audiobook during a car trip and happily took the long way home so I could prolong the ride. Brooks traces the journey of a centuries-old revered Hebrew text, the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, moving backwards in time from war-torn Sarajevo to 17th-century Venice and finally to Seville, where it was created. It's a movable feast of Europe through the ages, full of unforgettable characters and vividly depicted cities."

Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Naomi (last edited Aug 17, 2017 05:15PM) (new)

Naomi Bloom Two word's: Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton. Setting: Troyes, France in the 11th and 12th centuries. A trilogy, or more correctly a series.

message 2: by Anita (new)

Anita Rashi,s daughters was great read. It was interesting to learm how they became so educated in that time period & why. How they used their knowledge for the good of their community.

message 3: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Davis Naomi wrote: "Two word's: Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton. Setting: Troyes, France in the 11th and 12th centuries. A trilogy, or more correctly a series."

I will definitely check it out - thank you!

message 4: by Future (new)

Future Cat Lady I am obsessed with anything by Michelle Moran. Especially Madame Tussaud.

message 5: by Tami (new)

Tami I have to second the Madame Tussaud recommendation - great read.

message 6: by Gill (new)

Gill Lewis Agree totally with the Michelle moran book. Its brilliant

message 7: by Sophie (last edited Aug 19, 2017 05:55AM) (new)

Sophie People Of The Book was an exceptional novel that was informative, engaging & thought provoking, bravo.
Sofi Oksanen is a gifted writer that delivers exciting & sometimes terrifying novels like "Purge"...can't wait to read her new book, Norma. More international content should be recognized.

message 8: by Ramona (new)

Ramona Listening to "The Homefront Girls". 1940s. WWII. Three women of different backgrounds unite after working in the same department store, Owen & Owens. Riveting action, with heart wrenching reality. I loved "The Dollhouse" and "The Address" is in my bookbag right now!

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