Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

Enjoyed the fictional story of a family living in the New York Public library. What book lover has not dreamed of living in a library?
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I received an advance Kindle copy of this book from Netgalley for a fair and honest review, and I honestly determined that “The Lions of Fifth Avenue” is a five star book!

The setting compelled me to request this book. The two eras, 1913 and 1993, and the New York City setting caught my attention. But the clincher was the landmark building that is the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue guarded by the stoic lions, Patience and Fortitude. 

For many, the sign of a great book is one which ignites the reader’s curiosity and Fiona Davis’ new offering does just that on page one! Protagonist Laura Lyons is walking up the “steps that lead to her home: seven rooms buried deep inside the palatial New York Public Library.” One could live at this library? I now needed to know if this was really a possibility! And it was! I was hooked!

Laura Lyons of the 1913 era, along with her granddaughter, Sadie Donovan, in 1993, have never met, yet both are intertwined in the thefts of valuable books from the Berg Collection (another opportunity for research!) at the library. 

Laura, living in the library apartment in 1913 with her husband, the superintendent of the library who is also writing a book, and their two children, finds she is not content with domestic duties. Admission to journalism school opens up new lifestyles to her during the early years of womens’ suffrage. Then valuable books become missing from the library’s Berg Collection and their family life is drastically altered. 

Sadie, now employed in 1993 at her dream job in the library with unlimited access to the Berg Collection, also experiences thefts from the collection. And she is a suspect!

Told from the seamlessly alternating perspectives of Laura and Sadie constantly offering the reader new details, you will entertain a variety of possible conclusions.

This historical fiction offering embedded with solid research is a must read. “The Lions of Fifth Avenue” was my first Fiona Davis read but it is definitely not my last!
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue is set in the iconic New York City Public Library on 5th Avenue at West 42nd Street. Yup, a gorgeous, massive public library! I'm a proud Library Assistant and after reading this book's blurb, I knew that the biblio-nerd that dwells within me needed to read this book.

The story follows two women in dual timelines - Laura in 1913 and her granddaughter Sadie in 1993. Through these women we witness family issues, losses, and their connections to mysterious thefts of precious books. With the family turmoil, a cool setting, and a mystery t'boot, there's a lot going on -- but it works. I particularly enjoyed its focus on the limitations and outright misogyny that women experienced in the early part of the 20th century.

What always stands out for me with Davis' books is how she weaves historical facts into her stories. These little tidbits don't interrupt the flow of the story but add a wonderful layer and often encourage me to learn more about the settings/era. In her earlier book The Masterpiece, I learned about Grand Central Terminal (when people say Grand Central Station, I find myself quietly muttering "It's a terminal, not station" because of what I learned in that book. I'm incorrigible.). Similarly, in this book I LOOOVED learning more about the history of the NYC reference library - its well-known lions, secret apartment, and its history. It's a fascinating place!

This is my favourite Fiona Davis book to date. It is a great pick for people who enjoy history, a bit of mystery and well-researched stories set in iconic locales. I eagerly await the time when this Canadian can once again venture into the US and tour this beautiful, historical structure. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Dutton Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
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Couple of things…..

I LOVE Fiona Davis and her books. 

I have been working on my own book for the last few years - about living in a library apartment. 

Laura Lyons lives in the most beautiful building in New York. Marble, wood paneling, a grand entrance…’s the New York Public Library. Jack Lyons is the superintendent and the family live in a 7 room apartment, hidden away in the grand building. 

Laura, passionate and driven, attended the Columbia Journalism School and expands her mind beyond the halls of the library. Discovering a group of new bohemians, she is drawn into a radical group and finds he role of mother and wife full of questions. At the same time, rare and valuable books are being stolen from the library.

80 year later, Sadie, the granddaughter of Laura Lyons, works at the New York Public Library and on a special collection called “Evergreen”. Suddenly, she is thrust into a leadership role while rare books, manuscripts and a journal all go missing. 

Years ago, I saw a photo set of a few of the NYPL apartments. As a life-long bookworm, I could think of no better apartment in this city than hidden away among stacks of my ‘friends’, Jo March and Jane Eyre. This book helps bring one of those apartments alive. 

Fiona Davis is able to capture moments in time perfectly. Her view of New York is one that I’ve grown to love. She takes classic locations - Grand Central Terminal, the Library…and adds elements of mystery, female empowerment and struggle, and love. I feel like I say this with each of her books but this one might be my favorite. 

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and Fiona Davis for the opportunity to read this book.
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue is undoubtedly going to be one of my favorite books of 2020 thanks to the exceptional storytelling talent of Fiona Davis. Starting with every library lover’s dream setting of the New York Public Library, and adding in the time period’s socioeconomic disparities and the stirrings of the women’s rights movement, Davis skillfully blends the historical with two fascinating mysteries that are connected albeit separated by decades apart. More often than not, when reading a story with two timelines, I find myself preferring one over the other. That definitely was not the case here. I loved both Laura and her granddaughter Sadie and was equally invested in both of their stories. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a sumptuous feast for any reader who loves books, libraries, history, complex characters, and intriguing mysteries.
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Did you know that the lions in front of the New York Public Library weren't always named Patience and Fortitude?  Neither did I.  (For the curious, their names were originally Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after Jacob Astor and John Lenox, two of the library's founders.  They were renamed in the 1930s by Mayor LaGuardia.)  This was just one of the many things I learned about the New York Public Library, its history, and its beautiful house on Fifth Avenue.

Lest you think that this is a boring treatise on the NYPL, it most assuredly is not.  This is a story of feminism, and not being afraid to fall in love again, and books, and book thefts.  Told in two different time periods, we start with Laura Lyons, whose husband is the first superintendent of the NYPL.  They live with their two children in an apartment in the library itself (and yes, that apartment actually exists, but the Lyons bear no resemblance to the actual family of the first superintendent beyond borrowing their living quarters).  Laura loves her family, but is dissatisfied with her role in life and chafes under the gender norms of the early 20th century.

Jump 80 years into the future, and Laura's granddaughter Sadie is the curator of a special collection at the NYPL (she got the job entirely on her own merits, by the way, as no-one there even knows about the family connection).  When first editions and valuable papers start disappearing from her collection, though, she must look back to her grandmother's time, when something similar happened.  Could the past and future be connected?  Why?  How?

As Sadie works to solve the mystery of the book thefts, she must also try to answer questions about her family and their life in the library.  Sadie is a character to be reckoned with, and her wit and determination shine off the page.  Laura, too, is a character not soon to be forgotten, as she tries to solve the mystery of who she is and how she wants to leave her mark on the world.  Their stories come together in a heart-pounding mix of whodunit and family saga that will leave readers both satisfied and wishing for a sequel.

For fans of Marie Benedict and Beatriz Williams.
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I love a good historical fiction novel, and add in a library setting and a bookish mystery, and you’ve got a real winner! ⁣
In “The Lions of Fifth Avenue,” Fiona Davis’ upcoming release, two women connected to the New York Public Library aim to solve parallel mysteries of rare book thefts. In 1913, Laura Lyons Iives with her husband and children inside the NYPL’s superintendent’s apartment. She dreams of attending journalism school, building a career of her own, and writing about women’s rights. In 1993, Sadie Donovan’s personal life is in shambles, but she is passionate about her career as a NYPL curator. The book thefts in both time periods threaten what the women hold dear, setting them each on a journey of sleuthing...⁣
I absolutely loved the library setting of this book. It was so fun to gain some behind-the-scenes knowledge of both libraries and the rare book trade, and Davis’ passion for books is clearly evident throughout the story. I also really enjoyed the feminist themes interwoven with the mystery. I was most invested in Laura’s story, but the difficulty of living as a woman against societal expectations was well-presented in both time periods. And Davis’ writing had a gentle cadence, so that even though the book had intrigue and weight, it always felt relaxing to read. ⁣
I did guess several major plot points pretty early on, and wished there was a bit more development for some of the characters’ difficult choices. That being said, there were other elements that surprised me, and I found the book to be very entertaining overall. This was the first book that I’ve read by Davis, but it definitely won’t be my last! ⁣
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Have I been reading too many books during the Pandemic or is the two person story in different time zones been done to death? I am so weary of it. It's become so common place that it is no longer an interesting twist. The problem is that one story always seems to suffer. This is true here too.

  The story starts in 1914 when Laura Lyons is living with her family in the NY Public Library. Her husband is in charge there and a free apartment is part of employment. Can you imagine anything better? Living in a library especially one with such architectural interest sounds like heaven to me. Laura doesn't have the joy I do but she is trying to broaden her world. She decides to return to school at Columbia School of Journalism which is quite daring at the time especially with two small children. Her mother fills in with babysitting and her husband is busily working on a book.

  She ends up meeting a woman doctor who treats the poor and introduces her to a group of women who are free thinkers. There is one rule. No one is to talk about the meeting. Laura, of course, does not think this means her and writes a story that gets published. She gets kicked out of the group and then fails her course at college. Her world is crumbling.

  Meanwhile rare books are being stolen at the library and the family is understandably under suspicion. Laura becomes completely unlikable to me at this point. She has no sympathy for her husband and his situation and in fact calls him selfish when his dreams are destroyed. She totally mishandles her children, in my opinion, and then makes radical changes to the family that lasts for generations. She does go on to become a famous woman rights essayist.

  Years later, in 1993, her granddaughter is working at the library and rare books are being stolen. She is a suspect too.  As she tries to find the books she uncovers and deals with the family secrets. As you can tell, I thought her section was unnecessary.

  In the end, I was slightly dissatisfied with the book. I thought it used an overworked gimmick. I didn't care for the main characters. I was disappointed. I thought it would have been so much better. Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
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As a book nerd and a Fiona Davis fan, I was very excited for a book set around the New York Public Library. The book is split between 1913 and 1993 with narratives from Laura Lyons, who lives in the library with her family, and Sadie Donovan, who works there. As is always the case with Fiona Davis, the historical context is incredibly rich and detailed. Davis explores the role of the Heterodoxy Club in Greenwich Village in 1913 -- a group of women discussing radical (at the time) feminism, and suffrage. I had no prior knowledge of this wonderful nugget of history and it was fascinating to experience it through Laura. Her character’s reactions to attending group meetings were believable and made for a strong understanding of her character, especially as she attends journalism school and strives to be more than just a wife and a mother.

Sadie’s narrative focuses on a series of thefts occurring at the library. Although she never met her, Sadie discovers that she is a descendant of Laura Lyons and that there were rare book thefts that also occurred while Laura lived in the library. She becomes uncomfortable that this may put a target on her back as being involved in the current thefts. Her portion of the story felt less rich to me than Laura’s, probably because I didn’t learn as much historical context.

As much as I enjoyed the majority of this story, I struggled with the ending. Sadie’s sudden quest to find someone who knew Laura and discuss her life with them seemed jarring and unbelievable and the ultimate conclusion of the thefts fell a little flat. That being said, I really loved learning about New York City in 1913, and seeing Laura struggle with her ambitions, her sexuality, and the sexism that surrounded her.

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I typically like good historical fiction, but I couldn’t get into this one. I’ve heard great things about Fiona Davis books, but each time I’ve tried to read them, I don’t connect with the story or characters. Not a good fit for me.
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What's not to love about a book about books? This historical fiction mystery comes wrapped in a dual timeline (1912 and current day) with dual heroines and great side stories. An especially good one concerns the Heterodoxy Group, a real women's group exploring new ideas about marriage, motherhood, and career with famous, familiar names of early women's rights champions involved. The NY Public Library is very much an interesting character in this novel. The mystery ties both timelines together nicely and is a quick, fun read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton/Penguin Group for the ARC to read and review.
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"In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis's latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.

It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life - her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she is drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club - a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on...and may just lose everything in the process.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage - truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history."

Time for a little Patience and Fortitude!
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I highly recommend The Lions of Fifth Avenue! Some of the secrets seeded early on and revealed at the end were hugely surprising, and I loved connecting the dots between the two timelines as I read. Despite the historical nature of the book, there are several quotations that I think other readers will find applicable to their own experiences - I know I did!
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Thank you Netgalley and Penguin for an early reader copy!

The Lion's of Fifth Avenue was a delightful surprise! Alternating between Greenwich Village in 1913 and the New York Public Library in 1993, we follow an increasingly complex path between thefts of books from the library that seem to be tied to each other across time. 

1913 - Laura Lyons is a beloved wife, mother of two, with a hankering to complete her degree at Columbia School of Journalism, while her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, and working to complete his own work of fiction. They live in the library, in an apartment pretty much hidden from the general public, but with amazing access to the library itself.  But Laura is looking for more than just being a wife, and when she gets a scholarship for a semester at Columbia, she sees the challenges for women in journalism: stories about recipes, stories with little actual journalism, stories that just don't matter much. As she stumbles into a community she has had little exposure to, she meets Amelia, a physician who attends to the poor and hopeless. Amelia brings Laura to a meeting of other like minded women, and Laura realizes she has found the story for her thesis, and the direction for her life.  A theft, a death and leaving Columbia completely changes the trajectory of Laura's life

1993 - Sadie Donovan is Laura Lyons granddaughter, and is also working in the New York Public Library. When a string of thefts begin to occur, Sadie wonders if there is a connection between what's happening in her world and what happened in her grandmother's world. 

The Lion's of Fifth Avenue is a very interesting read, which takes you along as first Laura and then Sadie uncover secrets and lies that have been hidden much to long. Little by little, piece by piece, mysteries are unraveled, falsehoods uncovered, and there is a very satisfying ending! Truly a good read.
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This story takes place in the marble confines of the New York Public Library. The building superintendent, Jack Lyons, and his wife Laura are resident caretakers of the building and as such at the time make their home in the library.

The struggle for the right to vote and the development of women as independent members of society is just beginning. Jack sees himself as a writer who will produce a great American novel. Every spare minute of his day not working for the library was spent in that endeavor. Laura is given the position of curator of the Berg Collection of early books and Laura wants to write as well. She receives a scholarship for one term at Columbia Journalism School. Now in addition to being a curator and family matriarch, she becomes a student.

The male students are given assignments to review trials or the mayor’s speeches. The females are sent to cover neighborhood conditions. Laura meets one of the new social workers, Dr. Amelia Parker, who is a large no-nonsense woman teaching immigrant women how to care for their children. She takes Laura under her wing and introduces her to the Heterodoxy Club. The group is scorned by society. 

Her granddaughter Sadie Donovan is hired at the library to do basically the same tasks as her grandmother so many years before. Books disappear during both ladies’ tenures and they are suspected of being the thieves. The author skillfully intermingles the two lives drawing parallels nearly a century apart. Both women are fighting the upward battle of emancipation. 

The dual plots move along smoothly and my interest was held throughout. This is a fulfilling novel, well written and paced with empathetic characters and a joy to read.  

Receiving this digital download free from the publisher and NetGalley did not affect my opinion of the book or the content and this is my honest opinion. Highly Recommended. 5 stars CE Williams
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I am not a huge reader of historical fiction - I either love it or I cannot find myself getting into the book. No in between for me.  This is the first book by Fiona Davis that I have read and I am hooked! I cannot say how much I loved this novel.  It hooked me....I could not put this down until I finished.  I cannot wait to recommend this fantastic book, and am going to now go back and read Davis's prior books.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy.
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A librarian’s dream. Not just working at the NYPL but also living there!  I like how the story jumps around in time although there were several times I wanted to jump ahead to see what was next after becoming engrossed in either Sadie or Laura’s lives. I’ve had trouble lately reading books with a lot of dry details but I never felt dragged down by this or wished it was explained differently.  Family drama and the twists are crazy well done.  My heart broke over Pearl’s brother and how her mom had to let him go.... oh that was too sad. This story was fantastic and not hard to imagine that it could have  really happened. I will never tire of skeletons in family’s closets!
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This was spellbinding! Each scene leaps off the page. Davis has a gift for setting and character, atmosphere and tone. Her writing is rich and detailed, making this a highly readable work of historical fiction.
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This was an amazing book.  Very interesting story and very well written.  The story moved quickly and kept me turning the pages to find out what came next.  Very descriptive writing that made it very easy to visualize the library.  I really enjoyed the character Sadie and was glad when she was able to solve the mysteries and retain the last words from her grandmother, Laura.  Can’t wait till the next Fiona book.  Thanks for the early copy.
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I enjoyed this quick read.  Author created a mystery while sharing interesting facts about the New York Public Library’s research library on 5th Avenue.  The story sheds light on the feminist movement in NYC in 1914. There are two intertwined mysteries involving books and families.  I recommend this book.
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