The Dollhouse
by Fiona Davis
Discussion Questions:
1. When Griff returns home from work, Rose ponders if, as a man, he ever wondered “whether his face was too shiny, his hair curling unreasonably, or if his crow’s feet had possibly deepened overnight? He entered the room as an agent of change, a man who made the news. Not as the pleasant-featured girl who simply reported it.” Do you think her comments reflect the current climate women in the work place experience? Why or why not? How is this different from or similar to Darby’s time?

2. Why was Darby attracted to Esme as a friend? What characteristics did Esme espouse that Darby desired? Is Esme a foil for Darby? If so, then what does Stella represent? Which one of these three characters would you rather be in the story and why?

3. What did you think of young Stella’s plan to find the wealthiest, handsomest man she could? Do you think it was a mark of codependence or independence? Why or why not? Did your impression of Stella change from the 1950s to 2016? If so, how and why?

4. What did you think about how The Dollhouse portrays the darker, seedy underbelly of the New York City jazz scene in the 1950s? Does it still retain its glamour? Why or why not?

5. Why do you think Esme kissed Darby? Was it a sexual kiss? What did it mean to each woman?

6. Do you think Rose is justified in her skewering description of the modern startup workplace and startup CEO? Do you think it accurately reflects the modern culture of these workplaces?

7. Put yourself in Darby’s shoes. Would you have gone back home after being expelled from Gibbs? Why or why not? What did you think of Darby’s plan? How did it differ from Esme’s? What do these differences reveal about their friendship?

8. What did you think of Esme in the end? What different factors of her life played in to her desperate final actions? Is she a character to be pitied, vilified, or something much more complex? How did she change Darby, for better or for worse?

9. What did you think of Rose’s concerns about her future after her breakup with Griff? Were they justified? Was Rose fair in how she viewed the lives of the elderly Barbizon women?

10. What do you think of the older women’s lives now? Are they a symbol of feminism or a dying breed? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being one of the original Barbizon inhabitants?

11. Is Rose an accurate portrayal of the modern-day woman? Do you think Rose was too opportunistic in her desire to become a news-breaking journalist? Was she too desperate for Griff’s attention? What choices would you have made in her place and would those choices have been difficult? Why?

12. Did Rose’s story mirror Darby’s story? Why or why not? What are the differences and similarities? How do you think each woman changed and grew over the course of the novel?

13. Several people take on different identities, or present themselves to the world in a not-entirely-truthful way, in The Dollhouse. What purpose did these identities serve and how do you think they helped or hurt the various characters in the end?

14. How do you think the presence of food and delicacies, the different textures, spices, and smells, plays into the plot and texture of the book? How does it illuminate or obscure aspects of the two time periods? Did you have a favorite meal or ingredient? What was it and why?

15. What do you think about how Darby handled things with Sam after her skirmish with Esme? What would you have done in her situation? How do you think Darby’s life would have been different if she’d made a different choice? Ultimately, what did you think about what Darby made of her life?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


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