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Publisher's Summary

A “captivating portrait” (The Wall Street Journal), both “poignant and intriguing” (The New Republic): from award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the remarkable history of New York’s most famous residential hotel and the women who stayed there, including Grace Kelly, Sylvia Plath, and Joan Didion.

Welcome to New York’s legendary hotel for women, the Barbizon.

Liberated after WWI from home and hearth, women flocked to New York City during the Roaring Twenties. But even as women’s residential hotels became the fashion, the Barbizon stood out; it was designed for young women with artistic aspirations, and included soaring art studios and soundproofed practice rooms. More importantly still, with no men allowed beyond the lobby, the Barbizon signaled respectability, a place where a young woman of a certain class could feel at home. 

But as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in, the clientele changed, though women’s ambitions did not; the Barbizon Hotel became the go-to destination for any young American woman with a dream to be something more. While Sylvia Plath most famously fictionalized her time there in The Bell Jar, the Barbizon was also where Titanic survivor Molly Brown sang her last aria; where Grace Kelly danced topless in the hallways; where Joan Didion got her first taste of Manhattan; and where both Ali MacGraw and Jacquelyn Smith found their calling as actresses. Students of the prestigious Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School had three floors to themselves, Eileen Ford used the hotel as a guest house for her youngest models, and Mademoiselle magazine boarded its summer interns there, including a young designer named Betsey Johnson. 

The first-ever history of this extraordinary hotel, and of the women who arrived in New York City alone from “elsewhere” with a suitcase and a dream, The Barbizon offers readers a multilayered history of New York City in the 20th century, and of the generations of American women torn between their desire for independence and their looming social expiration date. By providing women a room of their own, the Barbizon was the hotel that set them free.

©2021 Paulina Bren. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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A Very Enjoyable Non Fiction, Mostly Easy Listening

I completely enjoyed this audiobook. This is a non fiction that is clearly written in modern conversational American English. I was able to follow this book on audiobook comfortably. I do wish to mention the are photographs and notes on Kindle that added to my enjoyment of this book.

However some audiobooks are easier reading / listening experiences than others. This is a relatively easy listening experience. as far as content, I also enjoyed this book. It is about an all women hotel in N.Y.C. that was visited by many iconic American Women. It may not be of interest to every reader, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank You....

11 people found this helpful

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Loved this book

The history of women and the world in the US is told through the history and amazing stories of the Barbizon Hotel . I learned so much about Mademoiselle magazine and the women who came to NYC every June from all over the country . Loved this book. Loved the history . Without being hardcore the book demonstrates what Women of every decade had to endure just to make it, while the white men ( I am a 45 year old white Man ) got away with it all ! Loved this story. I miss the pre Covid NYC even more. Remember going out for drinks and dancing ? Aww the memories !

8 people found this helpful

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Who Knew??

I loved this book and the story behind the Barbizon. If those wall could talk! I had no idea.

6 people found this helpful

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"Building" the women's movement

I struggled with the narrator's voice. It was too robotic. No life. Interesting how the hotel was used to revisit the women's movement.

6 people found this helpful

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If you didn't like Sylvia Plath before this book

Waaaay too much emphasis on Plath. I'd much rather have heard more about other guests than all the boorish behavior and nasty demeanor of Plath. I understand that she was mentally ill, but it's tough to listen to. I did like the Grace Kelly part,but that was a small part of the book.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting story but hard to follow

I finished the book because I was curious how it ended. I wasn't expecting so many vignettes of different Barbizon guests, and they became hard to follow. The book was hyper focused on Mademoiselle magazine and Sylvia Plath. I did like how they correlated changing times to changing guests in the hotel, even though the hotel remained unchanged for many decades. It's definitely an interesting and notable part of history.

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things i never knew

good history of eras before my time enjoyable and entertaining
im a new yorker si this was fun fir me

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Exceeded all my expectations

A fascinating recap of the Barbizon history, particularly for those of us who were bred, raised and still live in New York.

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Could have been more entertaining

I found this book a little dull .I was a student nurse at Boston City hospital during this time period and our time living at Vose house was much more interesting. We all were 18 yo girls away from home for the first time and under the constricts of a housmother. we seemed to have a lot more fun while maturing over the next 3 years.

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A great read.

A wonderful capsule history of America, New York, and Women as seen through the eyes of an iconic hotel. I enjoyed it very much.

1 person found this helpful