I didn’t love the weather in February; I didn’t love the fact that the pandemic wasn’t getting better. I did love my local library and celebrated Love Your Library Month by donating to the Brazoria County Library, and supporting the Alvin Library League by buying used books for my Little Free Library several times. I LOVE books and everything bookish.
Last February I heard about the old and famous Strand Bookstore in NYC, and with that as my impetus, I got busy planning a girlfriend’s weekend in that city I love.
Three girlfriends, ranging from 50 to 82 in age, and I planned a trip to NYC, which included a Broadway play, a bus tour of the city (none of us are “good walkers”), and a trip to the site of 9/11. Each of us had “special agendas” to carry out while we were there. I intended to visit The Strand Bookstore; meet my favorite author, Fiona Davis for lunch in an authentic NY Cafe; and have coffee at an authentic NY Coffee Shop with Jay Cudney, my blogger friend and full time author on Sunday morning before the Broadway matinee.
We were scheduled to leave Houston on Southwest Airlines on March 19, 2020. AND THEN THE COVID VIRUS PANDEMIC HAD OTHER PLANS FOR US. We cancelled the trip on March 14 because we were afraid we’d be placed in a two week quarantine when we arrived back in Houston on the 23rd , and because we didn’t want to bring the virus back with us. This was after much discussion and a lot of prayer. Talk about a God thing! Had we gone to NYC, we would have been quarantined there, and who knows when we would have made it home?
It was a disappointment, but also a relief to cancel the trip. Fast forward to March, 2021. I am going to NYC–VIRTUALLY through my blog, PWR. Each day in March, there will be some kind of NYC-related post. I am looking forward to taking virtual tours and reporting on them, reviewing books set in The Big Apple, and doing other New Yorkish things during the month. If you know of something I can do without leaving the Texas Gulf Coast, nestled between Houston and Galveston, use the reply/comments box to let me know, please.
I am soooooo looking forward to my trip. Come along with me and enjoy New York.
I believe Davis’s third novel, The Masterpiece, published last year, is her best yet. It deals with the “glamorous” Art School, built above Grand Central Terminal (not Grand Central Station; this is not a station where the trains pass by, but an end-of-the-line, stopping point from which trains begin their next “run.” ) The descriptions of the glamorous high-end NYC society types kept this “New York-o-phile” turning pages.
As is her norm, thus far, Davis juggles two stories at once. One is the 1928 struggles and successes of Clara Darden, the first female instructor at the art school, teaching Illustration Techniques as featured in catalogs, newspaper and magazine ads of the day. Considered “not REAL art” by Clara’s colleagues, her illustrations lead to popularity, a whirlwind courtship, acceptance into high society, and eventually to her unexplained disappearance in 1931. Many theories have surfaced over the years, but the author’s imagined solution to the “mystery” of Darden’s disappearance is awesomely creative. I could never have come up with such an imaginative scenario. My kudos to the author.
Virginia Clay, employed by the Terminal in 1974 discovers a sketch with a painting on the back and becomes Darden’s fascinated fan. She also discovers that the dangerous and dilapidated structure has a lawsuit pending to save the historic structure from destruction. Recently divorced and hiding her shameful “secret” mastectomy, Virginia and Ruby, her college-age daughter, face struggle after struggle with no help from anyone. However, they have their own determination to overcome. Here, Ruby is her mother’s daughter. While carrying out an errand, Virginia stumbles upon the deserted art school, setting off her curiosity and an urge to research the terminal’s rich history. Here is where Davis shines–her meticulous research, her detailed (but never boring) descriptions which often yield a clue or further the plot, keep the reader enthralled as they envision the faded glory and splendor of the old landmark.
I enjoyed reading this novel more than any other novel I’ve read so far in 2019. I can hardly wait to read Fiona Davis’ Chelsea Girls, due out this summer.
I am reading a fantastic book by Fiona Davis, a novelist from New York, who has written three novels, all set in iconic New York buildings erected during the 1920s and 1930s. The Dollhouse is structured around the Barbizon, an early hotel that offered a chaperoned environment to single young ladies seeking secretarial and modeling careers. The Address, Davis’s second novel is set at The Dakota, the famous New York apartment building with a rich history (coincidentally where John Lennon was shot), and now my new favorite, The Masterpiece, featuring the Art School above Grand Central Station/Terminal. All three novels stand independently and are not sequels. I can honestly say this novel is her best yet.
Davis offers readers mystery, love, complex relationships, plot twists and turns, and her forte–problematic communication issues between characters. So far it is a GREAT read.
Here is a teaser, randomly taken from the middle of the book.
Virginia, the protagonist, has just sprayed Mace on a mugger: “Her assailant screamed and covered his eyes…The mugger had wanted the painting. Not her purse… Her thoughts were racing from shock. She took a deep breath to calm herself.” Obviously, I have skipped whole paragraphs to set the plot and shorten the post.
Davis’s story, like all her novels, moves back and forth between the “present” (in the case of The Masterpiece, the 70s) and the correlative stories of an earlier historical period. This is NOT hard to follow, however, because she cleverly places the date at the beginning of the chapter when the setting shifts forward or backward in time.
BEST NEWS YET…Her fourth novel, The Chelsea Girls will be published this summer. I can hardly wait.