Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

This is my first book by Fiona Davis and it won't be my last. 

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a historical fiction novel set in New York City centered around the New York City library. 

It has dual timelines; one in 1913 about Laura Lyons whose husband gets a job as the superintendent at the new library. Her and their family move into an apartment in the library. (How freaking cool.) The second takes place in 1993 when Laura Lyons granddaughter, Sadie Donovan, works as a curator in the library. 

The storyline weaves between the two seamlessly. Normally I find one more entertaining, but both kept my interest equally. I absolutely loved the atmosphere that Davis created around the library. 

If you're a historical fiction fan and want something not set around WWII, definitely pick this one up.
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This story is just beautiful. Fiona Davis craft historical tales with such detail and accuracy. Her research is impeccable and readers are transported to NYC and the library and the eras in which she writes. Fans are in for a treat and new readers are lucky to have found her.
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I have read all of Fiona's books and I love the world she takes us into.  Her books have taught me more about New York City than I have learned anywhere.  I feel like she transforms me right into the middle of story to watch it play out.  This book is like all of her others -- two timelines, two women connected.  I fell in love with Laura who was in the 1913 timeline and I feel like I now understand my great grandmother's world more because of her.
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I enjoyed this split timeline story (1913/1993) that explores events in the lives of a grandmother and granddaughter centered around the New York Public Library. I preferred the contemporary story over the historical one (personal preference). The societal expectations and rampant sexism in 1913 was of course aggravating, but the historical story was also more personally painful for Laura than the contemporary one is for Sadie. I loved how all of the pieces came together in the end - a creative solution to the mystery!) (Language, sex, LGBTQ+. TW: Suicide)
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I set a personal goal to read one historical fiction book this year.  It’s a genre I enjoy, but for some reason I don’t think about it or gravitate to it like I do with contemporary fiction, romance and thrillers.

A book about NYC, the New York Public Library and by an author who I’ve only heard amazing things about sounded perfect.

What I got from this book was so much more than I expected.

My grandparents, Sicilian immigrants, arrived in NYC less than ten years after Laura Lyons first Heterodoxy meeting.

I grew up thinking of Greenwich Village as an artsy cool place but my Nauna always told me it wasn’t that when she lived there in the 1920s and through this book, I got a glimpse of the poverty she must have witnessed.

My grandparents had 6 children, two of whom died as infants; a third was dropped by the doctor right after birth and had a lot of health issues and died at age 12.  “No one cares about an immigrants’ children,” Dr. Amelia Potter tells Laura Lyons.  I had chills.  

My Nauna was instrumental in raising me to be a wife and mother, but reading about how women were treated and looked upon then, reading about the Heterodoxy Club and women who wanted to educate women on birth control - even in the early 1900s - was fascinating!

There is a lot to this book - mysteries, family connections and the fictional story of a woman who went against the norms of her time to make a huge difference.
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Who remembers the librarian ghost in Ghostbusters? You know, the little old lady spirit that turned on the team after they ignored her “shhh” warnings? Before reading Fiona Davis’ newest novel, I could safely say that was ALL I knew about the New York Public Library. I didn’t even know that Andrew Carnegie had given a donation toward the founding of this library, although libraries are part of his legacy. And being able to live in a functioning library? That was new to me, but an idea that I find appealing!

The (fictional) Lyons of Fifth Avenue live a unique life. Jack Lyons moves his family to the heart of New York City to become the first superintendent of the new library, but the transition is difficult for everyone. With both parents obsessed by the written language – appropriate for their living situation – the children are increasingly left to their own devices. The repercussions of a tragic day in 1914 are then passed down to their descendants. 
The descriptions of the library make it seem like a magical place. Imagine being able to roam around it without anyone else being there! I also loved the historical aspects of it. Yes, there really was a Heterodoxy Club, and some of the members Davis includes in the narrative were real life members of it. The earlier storyline takes place at the end of the Gilded Age and, through Laura’s eyes, we get to see the differences between the haves and the have-nots as well as the societal changes that were taking place.

This is only the second of Fiona Davis’ novels I’ve read, and I loved it as much as I loved the first (The Masterpiece). Davis wonderfully weaves together the two timeframes until they come together in a startling fashion. While there is the obvious commonality of the missing books, readers will find that history repeats: what happens to Laura happens to an unknowing Sadie. Both women must learn to let go of the fear that stops them from moving on from being hurt, and they both must deal with misplaced guilt. Did I guess the entirety of the plot? Absolutely not! The ending caught me unaware and brought tears to my eyes. And yes, that’s a good thing. It means I’m looking forward to reading more of Davis’ timeslip fiction, both her earlier novels and whatever she writes next. After all, New York City has so many incredible, and historical, buildings.

Disclaimer: Although I received an uncorrected eBook file of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, the words and opinions below are my own.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton for the advanced copy!

This was my first book by Fiona Davis and definitely won't be my last! I really enjoyed this. What drew me to this book initially was the New York Public Library setting. I've never read a book set in a library before and that was very intriguing. I loved Fiona Davis' writing. The mixture of history and mystery kept me interested throughout the story. I also loved the strong female characters and the dual timelines! This is definitely worth the read if you are into historical fiction with a mystery component.
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Another wonderful book by Fiona Davis! I loved this book - it has love, intrigue, family and most importantly - books. The book revolves around two people - Laura Lyons and her granddaughter Sadie (although separately). I love learning more about Laura and how she became the woman she was known for - quite different from who she was at the start of the book. I also loved learning more about Sadie and seeing her blossom and follow the mystery surrounding her family and the missing books. I loved the twist at the end. I loved all the characters and how well written they all were. Fiona did a brilliant job making the library and characters come to life and I will happily recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
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The Story

The story is told in two time frames: 1914 and 1993. Grandmother Laura and granddaughter Sadie are both involved with the great NYPL on 5th Avenue. The story shifts back and forth between the two eras, but the story in both is about the theft of rare books and the possible relationship of the family to the thefts.

While granddaughter Sadie has the job of head of the Berg Collection–the rare books collection, dropped into her lap, she has never disclosed her relationship to the long-ago Supervisor of the building–her grandfather, Jack. Her grandmother Laura went on to become a well-known feminist, ahead of her time in just about every way until a bomb took her life in the London Blitz in World War II. Can interest in her grandmother be a help to Laura’s career? Or a major hindrance? Was a member of her family involved in the theft of books as rare as Poe’s Tamerlane?
My Thoughts

Oh, how I LOVED the idea of that apartment within the great library building! Creepy? Sure at night, I bet it was a horror movie of sounds and imaginary movement. But, gosh what an amazing address, right?

I cannot say that I fell in love with anyone in this book. If I felt for anyone it was Jack–the husband. He had every reason to feel trampled by his wife and her ambition. I did not warm to fellow [fictional[ librarian Sadie either. She just wasn’t very likable.

Davis’ writing and storytelling were fine. Her characters just weren’t people I could invest in. Overall, this book was a major disappointment. It just did not hold my attention. I wanted to love it, but it was pretty “meh” to me.
My Rating
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Fiona Davis is known for writing dual-timeline novels centered around iconic New York City landmarks. In her fifth book, The Lions of Fifth Avenue, she turns her attention to the New York Public Library, creating a multi-layered love letter to books and those who love them.

It’s 1913, and Laura, the wife of the superintendent of the New York Public Library, is trying to figure out what she really wants out of life. She, her husband, and their two children are currently living in an apartment within the library walls, and Laura finds this to be both inspiring and stifling. She’s always loved books, so the idea of literally living among them appeals to her on a bone-deep level, and yet she can’t help but wonder how she’ll be remembered once she passes away. Desperate to leave a tangible mark on the world, Laura enrols in the school of journalism at Columbia University. She’s one of a small group of women to actually get accepted onto the program, and she’s elated at the prospect of honing her craft as a writer.

As time passes and Laura begins learning more about what it actually means to be a serious journalist, her world expands in ways she never thought possible. Suddenly, she’s more than just a wife and mother. She’s someone who might actually have the power to make real change where it’s needed most. Unfortunately, the world isn’t quite ready for a strong, passionate woman like Laura, and a terrible tragedy befalls her family, causing her to question her place in the world.

Eighty years later, Sadie is working as a curator of one of NYPL’s special collections. She’s been tasked with putting together an exhibit, showcasing some of the library’s rarest acquisitions, and she’s eager to prove herself to her superiors. If the exhibit goes well, it could mean a promotion, something she’s been hoping for for years. So, you can imagine how dismayed Sadie is when one of the closely-guarded books goes missing, and Sadie herself is suspected of having something to do with the theft.

As Sadie does her best to solve the mystery of the missing book, she begins pouring through the library’s archives, uncovering deeply buried secrets along the way. In 1913, something terrible happened to the superintendent’s family, and it doesn’t take Sadie long to find eerie connections to her own situation. Now, she’s faced with the difficult task of convincing those in charge that the current book theft is more than it seems to be.

Fiona Davis excels at crafting addictively readable dual-timeline stories. It’s pretty common for me to find one timeline more interesting than the other when reading these kinds of books, but when it comes to Ms. Davis’ work, I’m equally invested in both stories. Laura and Sadie both lead interesting lives, and I couldn’t wait to see how things would turn out for them both.

If you love libraries as much as I do, The Lions of Fifth Avenue will be the perfect book for you. It’s well-researched and filled with all manner of historical tidbits that add extra layers of realism to the overall novel. I loved learning about the struggles faced by early female journalists, something I haven’t read much about before picking up this book. Now though, I’m determined to seek out more information on the subject.

Some people might call this a mystery, but I’d say it feels like historical women’s fiction more than anything else. There are definitely puzzles for the characters to solve, but they don’t feel like the main focus of the plot. Instead, Ms. Davis allows readers to really zoom in on the lives of both Laura and Sadie, two women living in very different times who turn out to be far more similar than they are different, and right now, given all the division I see in today’s society, this feels like a valuable lesson to hold on to, and I’m grateful the author was able to convey it in such an entertaining and meaningful manner.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore
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I read Fiona Davis' books because I love NYC and her historical fiction gives me the backstory on some of the most iconic monuments. Davis is excellent at weaving dual timelines and she has done impeccable research on some of New York City's most idolized addresses. This novel is no different, but for book lovers, it will probably be a favorite; combining the setting of the New York Public Library, a hidden caretakers apartment, and missing rare books. My reading of this was enhanced by watching a Zoom author interview on release day sponsored by the NYPL; hearing about her research was fascinating. This is a fast and enjoyable read and if you love books set in NYC as much as I do, it's a must. Round up to 3.5.
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue centers around The New York Library (and the apartment deep inside it!) in the early 1910s during the rise of the women’s rights movement and eighty years later in 1993, when the Library is putting together a show to commemorate their famous Berg Collection. Both times feature a compelling mystery though as valuable and rare books from the collection keep disappearing.

Davis does an incredible job of creating a plot that quickly draws the reader in and keeps them glued to the plot through the last page. Similar to her previous novels, the chapters go seamlessly back and forth between the past and present. Finally, it was fascinating to watch Sadie (the main character from 1993), trying to learn more about Laura (from 1913), as the reader watches Laura’s life unfold in tandem. It gives a deeper look into Laura’s life that the reader might have not gotten otherwise.

Similar to Davis’s other novels, this book is a must-add to your TBR list (and move it to the top)!
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I love historical fiction and I love New York City, so I’m always drawn to the novels of Fiona Davis because she sets each one in an iconic NYC location.  This time around, Davis has selected the beloved New York Public Library as her setting.

In 1913, Laura Lyons is living in the library with her two young children and her husband, who is the Superintendent of the library.  She aspires to be a journalist and enrolls at Columbia University’s Journalism School.  Her journalism classes take her to the doorstep of an all-women’s club called the Heterodoxy Club. While attending club meetings and listening to “radical” women discuss women’s issues like suffrage and birth control, Laura begins to question her own existence as little more than wife and mother.  There’s a whole world out there she wants to experience.  Her thoughts of taking an alternative path in life are cut short, however, when rare books start disappearing from the library and it’s thought to be an inside job, which places her husband squarely on the suspect list.

In 1993, we meet Sadie Donovan, who also works at the New York Public Library.  Everyone at the library knows Sadie loves her job and is passionate about books, so it’s a given that she’s the best choice to curate the library’s next big exhibit featuring rare books.  What everyone doesn’t know about Sadie is that she’s actually the granddaughter of Laura Lyons.  With her family’s muddled history regarding the library and missing books, Sadie figures the little said about that the better, especially when, to her shock and dismay, rare books she plans to use in her exhibit start to disappear from the library.  As only a small handful of people have keys to the rare books room, it’s considered an inside job and Sadie finds herself on the suspect list.  Sadie becomes determined to find out how the books are being stolen and who is responsible and also hopes deep down that she can somehow redeem the Lyon name and legacy with respect to the library.

What intrigued me the most about this story is that we learn early on in Sadie’s timeline that Laura Lyons, although now deceased, had become a famous feminist essayist at some point in her life. In addition to being eager to find out how the book thefts were being pulled off in each timeline, I was also even more eager to find out what had transpired in Laura’s life to transform her from wife and mother on the verge of tragedy to world renowned author.  I loved how the author wove these two timelines together to gradually reveal the answers to both questions.

It actually surprised me how emotional I found myself getting as I was reading this book. I actually gasped a few times when certain beloved rare books went missing and in one case, where a page was torn out of a beloved treasure.  If you are passionate about books, libraries, New York, and historical fiction, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the perfect book for you.  4.5 STARS
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How could you not like a book set mainly in the largest public library in the US: New York City Public Library. This split time novel focuses in both time periods on rare book thefts as well as the connection between a grandmother and granddaughter.

The historical line is set in the library as Laura Lyons and her family reside in an apartment in the library as her husband is the Superintendent (who wouldn't love being able to do this). Jack is so busy between his library work, missing rare novels, and writing his own novel and Laura is left as Susie homemaker keeping house and taking care of their 2 children. She wants to be a journalist. In her attempts to become one, she gets involved with a women's rights group that is pretty radical. At the same time, she is neglecting both her husband and children. Meanwhile, Jack is neglecting both her and the children.

In the contemporary setting, Laura's granddaughter, Sadie, is now temporary Superintendent of the same library and once again rare books are missing. In her quest, to discover what is happening to the missing books, she meets Nick, the detective, who is trying to discover who is stealing the books.

I loved the mystery aspect of this story and thought the solution was incredibly unique. The relationship between Laura and Jack never seemed to gel as they were both headed in different directions all of the time which led to Laura's affair. I felt sorry for both the children as they seemed very neglected. The final ending was a surprise but I suspected that it might happen.

I would have given this book a 5, but I really didn't care for Laura's affair and the descriptive element it contained.

Content: Homosexual relationship

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.
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This book is absolutely gorgeous. The writing is stellar, the characters are lovable, and I couldn't put it down.

The reader is quickly swept into the beautiful palace-like castle that is the New York Public Library. I adored reading about the different rooms, behind the scenes practices, and structure of the library. This world-building is beautifully written, and I can clearly picture everything in my head. 

*sigh* The characters are loveable, relatable, smart, and driven. I loved reading both Laura and Sadie's story. I was completely engaged in reading about both of their experiences with the library. 

This book makes me want to travel to New York and check out the library myself! I highly recommend this book to all book lovers and people that enjoy mystery.

Thank you NetGalley for an ebook in exchange for a review.
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A huge thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. 

So when I found out the protagonist lived in the New York Public Library, I was all in! Throw in an eagle eye glimpse into the Women's Suffrage Movement and the disappearance of valuable books from the collection, and I was irrevocably hooked. 

Laura thought she was happy being the wife of NPL's superintendent. She thought she was content and fulfilled making a home and raising their children. Until she realizes that somewhere along the journey, she surrendered her dreams. When she applies to the Columbia School of Journalism, she is very skeptical about her chances of acceptance. When she is admitted, she is introduced to a world she never knew existed. She makes friends who are artists, free thinkers and activists. When her new life is threatened by a mysterious thief, she is torn between her commitment to her home and family and the dreams she wants to embrace for herself. 

Eighty years later, Laura's granddaughter Sadie is the new curator of the Berg Collection at NPL. She is excited about her job and eager to buck her grandmother's controversial legacy. Sadie is soon drawn into chaos when irreplaceable manuscripts begin disappearing from the collection. She reluctantly teams up with a private security firm to identify the culprit. 

But nothing is what it seems, and family secrets long buried begin to unravel. 

I could not put this book down. It is an intoxicating blend of historical fiction, suspense and mystery. It offers wonderful insight into the mechanics of arguably the most famous library in the world, and the impact the women's suffrage movement had on the activists themselves.
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Two similar series of book thefts at the New York Public Library at the beginning and the end of the 20th century lay the mystery framework for this dual timeline historical fiction, but the heart of the novel is in the strained, broken, healed, and healing relationships at both ends of this tale. 

It isn't a story that is completely satisfying, but that's a testament to Davis's ability to let messy human lives be messy, and to let her readers sit with that. She's an established and talented author who excels at realistic, complicated, historically grounded women as main characters in beautifully realized settings. One reviewer notes that the New York Public Library is "practically a third protagonist," and I agree. It was a distinct pleasure to read about the library, the apartment deep inside where the superintendent's family used to live, and the collections and procedures. If the tale is tinged with sadness, it's the sort that haunts every grand, enduring public building and felt particularly appropriate.

Content notes: limiting and dehumanizing gender roles, runaway and foster care system, off-screen suicide, death of a parent, child endangerment, off-screen London blitz/bombing
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue encompasses two different generations, with two strong and very determined women.  In 1913 Laura Lyons has just moved into an apartment located in the newly build NYC Public Library.  While her husband, Jack, a budding author and the building’s superintendent, is busy with his job, Laura cares for their two children and yearns to do more and be more.  That opportunity presents itself when Columbia University offers a new degree program in journalism.  As Laura prepares to return to school, Jack is grappling with a rash of rare book thefts.

Fast forward to 1993, where Laura’s great-granddaughter, Sadie is working as a special collections librarian at the same library.  As the saying goes, history often repeats itself and Sadie also finds herself dealing with missing items from the rare book collection.  As she begins to wonder if there is a connection to the recent thefts and those that occurred eighty years ago, evidence seems to suggest that she is guilty of taking the missing books.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a story that will sweep the reader into the world of rare books, libraries, and mystery.  The characters are interesting, strong women who thrive in their chosen fields.  The story moves gracefully between 1913 and 1993, while weaving the parallel lives of the characters together. The conclusion of the book couldn’t have been better. 

Besides the characters and their stories, another special aspect of The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the library itself.  As with previous books by this author, there is always a magnificent building that is the bridge between two periods of history.  Because of this, I always learn something about these buildings – the history, the architectural details, and the historical significance.  This is one of the many reasons that Fiona Davis is one of my favorite authors.  

Thank you, Ms Davis, for the lovely books you have written and the many hours of reading pleasure you have given me.

I highly recommend The Lions of Fifth Avenue.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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THE LIONS ON FIFTH AVENUE by Fiona Davis is a fictional, historical story line focusing on the Lyons family of New York.

Told from dual third person perspectives using two different time lines THE LIONS ON FIFTH AVENUE follows housewife/mother/ and feminist Laura Lyons in 1913-1914 as she struggles with family, friendships and a direction in life. Having always wanted to be a journalist, Laura enrols at the prestigious Columbia Journalism School where she will discover that life as she knows it is about to change. From exposure to the Heterodoxy Club, the thefts of valuable books from the New York Public Library where she and her family lived, to her husband’s death and her son’s disappearance, Laura will have to face the reality that her world was spiralling out of control.

Fast forward to 1993, wherein we will meet Laura Lyons granddaughter, New York City Library curator Sadie Donovan, a woman whose own life will begin to mimic that of her grandmother’s when a series of manuscripts, notes and books go missing from a rare collection at the public library. With the investigation quickly focusing on Sadie Donovan, Sadie begins to research her family history only to discover that the truth is stranger than fiction. 

THE LIONS ON FIFTH AVENUE  is a slow building story that bounces between two time lines, one family, and a series of missing and stolen books. We are witness to but a few months in the life of both leading heroines yet Sadie has only skimmed the surface of her grandmother’s tale. THE LIONS OF FIFTH is an impassioned, dramatic and tragic story of one family, two women, and the New York Public Library.





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**Full review to be added to Goodreads, Amazon, blog, and NetGalley!**

I've been meaning to read books from Fiona Davis for years, and I think The Lions of Fifth Avenue ended up being a fantastic place to start! I love the way that Davis managed to craft such an intricate and authentic historical setup with wonderfully fleshed-out characters!
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