The proper young women of New York’s Barbizon Hotel all had secrets to keep—especially in 1952 when the city’s unsavory night life lured them into its grip. Decades later, a young journalist living in one of the Barbizon’s converted condos sets out to unearth these secrets, discovering that veils can hide more than scarred faces, and that her own secrets have wrapped a web of deceit around her.
Fiona Davis braids the stories of these women together in her novel, The Dollhouse. Told with alternating points-of-view, the reader travels gracefully between decades and characters, between secrets and truth.
Author Corinne Joy Brown also delves into decades, even centuries, of hidden stories, perhaps never imagining as she was writing Hidden Star, that her novel’s main character (with a shadowy family history of Jewish persecution) would step so readily from the novel’s fictitious pages and into today’s headlines. Another Jewish cemetery vandalized. Muslims reach out to help. Even as themes of racism persist over the centuries, kindness and love come from unexpected places, as the characters of Hidden Star discover.
Corinne wasn’t merely fascinated by the stories of the descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled to the New World to escape the Spanish Inquisition, she was emboldened and impassioned by these secret stories. Almost 500 years later, her own sister would come into the world during a modern-day Inquisition—the Holocaust.
“Although your mother perished in the Warsaw Ghetto,” Corinne writes in the novel’s Acknowledgments, “she had the foresight to secure you, a child of five, with Christian friends, protected by your blue eyes and a Catholic religious medallion placed around your neck.” Corinne goes on to share that, after the siege on Warsaw, her sister, hidden for months, was brought from Poland to America and then into the arms of Corinne's family.
Secrets. They have long been the stuff of stories - woven into novels in order to disguise them, or whispered to each other at the dinner table. What, we might wonder, is the one secret my grandmother never told anyone? Or my grandfather? What is the one secret I have never told anyone? Even our characters keep secrets from us. These hidden truths compel us to write, compel us to read, and compel us to imagine a world that is better, kinder.
NOTE: You may read more about the characters of Hidden Star (First Place Winner of the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award in Historical Fiction) on Corinne's website. You may purchase Hidden Star here. Read more about Fiona Davis and The Dollhouse on Penguin Random House's author site.