UNBECOMING by Rebecca Scherm: A Review

This novel, published in 2015, opens in “a grubby antique shop in Paris, France, discussing the mysterious plight of Grace, the main character.  Whether she is the protagonist or not is up for grabs because all the way to the end of the book, I couldn’t decide if I liked her or was “on her side,” the traditional definition of the protagonist (the one we are “for” in the “struggle). She certainly isn’t an ordinary young woman, and she is petrified that her boyfriend and someone nicknamed “Alls” will soon be released from prison and come after her.  I vacillated between wondering if the boyfriend was abusive, and when I learned “Alls” was his best friend, or if the trio had been up to no good. Early on, we know a heist was carried out and that Grace is the only one who escaped to Paris under a false name and a false identity.

Scherm’s themes of fake vs. real gems, paintings, and people keep popping up, leading the reader to be confused and bemused at many parts in the story as the author takes a harsh look at her rather unlikeable main character. Will this not-your-basically-good young woman succeed? Will the “bad-guys” win for a change? How in the world will the novel end? Scherm deals with all of these questions admirably, and although I kept waiting for Grace to change and redeem herself, she does not, and even so, I kept turning the pages to read more.

REVIEW: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (2016)

A friend from book club told me her daughter had written her first novel, and as a “collector”of debut novels, I was immediately interested.  I had to wait a couple of months for the book to come out for sale, but the novel was well worth waiting for!

It is the story of the Barbizon , a “proper” and safe hotel, a “suitable” residence for young women searching for fame, careers, and husbands in New York City.  The Dollhouse is set in (and chapters alternate between) the 1950’s and 2016.  It is the  story of Darby (and Sam and Esme, her new friends) in 1950.  Darby is a student at The Gibbs Secretarial School, a “plain girl” hosteled on then same floor of the Glamorous Ford Agency models.

In 2016, Rose, also a Barbizon girl, is employed as a journalist and has a tinge of scandal of her own. Her lover, Griffin, who has political aspirations and Jason, a photographer who helps Rose investigate Darby’s scandal and mystery, also appear in the story.

But, most of all it is the story of The Barbizon .

For me, this was a fascinating read, a real page turner which reveals its mystery  like the peeling of the layers of the cliched onion. I would give this fantastic novel a 5 out of 5 rating .