Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

This ended up being one of my favorite books that I've read this year. I have always enjoyed historical fiction, and this particular book set around the New York Public Library promised to be a fun jaunt in that regard, but it also turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. I loved the way the two pasts (early 19th century and 1990s) were set against each other. I really loved the way that Sadie and Laura's journeys of self-discovery and finding love were laid out in their respective times. The mystery surrounding the library was fun to read and watch unfold. Just - generally, this was a super enjoyable read, and one I am definitely recommending to friends.
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As a book and library lover this was an amazing read.  To be swept away with the mystery and Laura's journey of self discovery.
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In 1913, Laura Lyons lives in the new New York City Library with her husband and their two children. Laura dreams of being a journalist, and is one of the first (women) to attend Columbia's new journalism school. There, under her sexist advisor, she comes into her own as a champion of women's rights. Back at the library, her husband and his colleagues are baffled: several rare, invaluable books have gone missing-- and so have books started going missing again in 1993, where Sadie --Laura's granddaughter-- is a librarian. But Sadie is determined to figure out who the thief is, even if she has to dig into her own family's sordid past.

I enjoyed this dual narrative historical fiction. Davis has marketed this book as "for librarians," but I didn't like it because of the inside look into living in the NYPL. Instead, I really liked the inside look into what it was to be a feminist in the years leading up to suffrage. My mom was a pioneer as a female ordained pastor, and so my family has long been aware of the prejudice and difficulty of breaking new ground as a woman. I felt that that is what this book celebrates-- not books or libraries. 

SPOILERS BELOW:







LGBTQIA+ diverse:
- Laura's best friend is a lesbian, and Laura ends up in a committed, long-term relationship with Dr. Amelia Potter.
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An intriguing historical mystery that reaches into the present, and affects the lives of two different women.  Laura Lyons is generally happy with her life as a mother and wife to the New York Public Library's superintendent. 
 But, as she enters a journalism program in 1913, a series of thefts jeopardizes her husband's position.  Eighty years later, Sadie Donovan is the granddaughter of Laura Lyons, and curator of the New York Public Library's collection.  But, similar thefts begin to occur during her tenure.  Laura is a strong character with a complex story of shifting priorities and heartbreaking decisions, while Sadie does a respectable job of tracking down the true thief.  The intertwining stories of these two women hold the reader to the very end.
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Content warnings: [infidelity, suicide (hide spoiler)]

The audiobook of The Lions of Fifth Avenue was well done, but the story itself didn't end up being for me.

Partially, this was a problem of my own expectations: I've enjoyed this author in the past for the way she blended romance into her historical plots, but this one doesn't do much in the way of romance (there is one for Sadie but it's not a focus, and I also didn't like it personally though it's inoffensive). For the rest of it, I didn't care for the way plot unfolded. The resolution to the mystery of the stolen books was unsatisfying. It's just really weird to me that the villains are [mostly poor children (hide spoiler)]. In 2020, this seems like a really weird take to choose. It's probably not meant to be a broader statement, but I can't help finding it a disappointing way to resolve everything.

I never really sank into these characters, and I feel like it's a cast full of relatively-to-very unlikable people ([Like, I want to love the historical woman exploring her agency and sexuality and identity, but she still cheats on her husband with very little guilt and also leaves her underage son to a life on the streets because he doesn't want to come home?!?! And the librarian honestly bored me, sad as I am to admit it, with her little book about the joys of spinsterhood. And they're the best ones! (hide spoiler)]) Mileage obviously varies on that, and I think if you enjoy historical novels that look at the shades of gray, you might love this book for that very reason. Mostly, I feel like this one just wasn't for me, and I hope it finds its audience.
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This is another fabulous book by Fiona Davis.  I loved reading the dual timelines.  I also enjoyed the women's rights, the life in the library and the bit of mystery,  It was so well done and as I was reading the title even came into a different light.  Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton books for the opportunity to read this book!
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I loved this book—a fantastic story of books, love, and mystery. I could not wait to get back to this story. After reading this book, I will be adding the New York Public Library to my list of places that I will visit when in New York City.
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Another well researched novel/mystery about a family who lives in the New York City Public Library..
  Laura and her husband Jack live with their two children in an apartment in the Library.  Jack is the superintendent of the library and is working to finish a novel.  Laura takes care of the children but wants more out of life and enrolls in journalism school.  Along the way, she meets and becomes friends with a group of forward thinking women.  When some rare books go missing from the library, Jack is suspected of theft.

Many years later, Laura's granddaughter is a curator at the library when rare books again go missing.  Is there a link between the missing books and how was Laura and her family involved.  Perfect for anyone who loves books, libraries and New York City.
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This was so interesting! I didn't know anything about the caretaker apartments in the library - HOW COOL. I love when I read a book that inspires me to do my own research for further information. Davis knocked it out of the park. I didn't guess the ending, and loved all the characters.
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Great for book clubs. Well-researched and interesting setting. Davis is great at building scenes and characters.
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An apartment inside the New York Public Library? ✅ That is so dreamy!
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Book thefts? ✅ How intriguing!
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Returning to college as a mother of two to pursue a career in journalism? ✅ You go girl!
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So you see how the upcoming release by Fiona Davis had me at “hello,” right? 
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With dual timelines set in 1913 and 1993, we meet two headstrong women, relatives separated by 80 years and several family secrets. Part heist, part love story, part family drama—this compelling storyline and its well crafted delivery kept me holding my breath. A family legacy in jeopardy, a police investigation, and a family divided by tragedy and mystery, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is my first historical fiction novel by Davis but it sure won’t be my last. Which of hers is your favorite? 
You’ll want to add this one to your summer reading pile! 
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Available August 4th at booksellers everywhere. Thank you to @netgalley and @duttonbooks for my free review copy in exchange for my honest feedback. #thelionsoffifthavenue #fionadavis #summerreads #beachread #nypl #patienceandfortitude #booktheft #readwithme #bookbarct #arc #netgalley #bookheist #librarylove
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Fiona Davis has a formula she believes works for her books: choose a landmark, then establish two timelines which center on activities there- one in the past, the other some time in the near present.  Then the two intertwine in some way, or a mystery of the past finds closure in the present timeline.  While some readers may find this satisfying, in this case, the book may have been stronger if it had stayed in the older time period.  In 1913, Laura Lyons' husband Jack is the caretaker of New York Public Library, so their family lives there in an apartment that was built specifically for the superintendent's family.  Jack is also at work on a novel, while Laura attends Columbia journalism school.  The second timeline in 1993 follows Laura's granddaughter Sadie, a librarian working on a special collection at the library, which includes an item which used to belong to her grandmother.  Sadie's mother never speaks of when she lived in the library, but as things come apart at the seams, one learns that there were thefts back then, as there are thefts taking place now from this special collection of Sadie's.  While the plot moves at a fairly steady pace, the culprits are unveiled.  There is quite a stretch for the motive and means employed in the later timeline, and the book heads into preachy territory with this philosophy that those who steal from libraries should receive harsher sentences.  I found Sadie to be sanctimonious and out of touch with the real world.  I looked forward to returning to Laura's side of the story to be relieve from Sadie, a walking contradiction.  She argued for the perpetrator to receive a much harsher sentence for stealing books, then spoke on 60 Minutes of how the robbery had made the books more relevant and the center of conversation, so shouldn't she be thanking the thief, if that is how she feels?  Having chosen to read this book because of the setting, I am disappointed it was less centered on the workings of the library, but if you enjoy family drama mixed in with mysteries involving book theft, this might be a match for you.
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Absolutely loved this book. Gave it a 5 star review in Historical Novels Review. If I had a copy of that review in front on me, I'd include it here. Fabulous work!
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A novel set in two time periods at the New York Public Library featuring a series of book thieves. An intriguing tale that shows how much the lives of women have changed.
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If you love books, libraries, a little intrigue/mystery, and historical fiction, this is a book for you!
One of the main characters is the New York Public Library main branch on 5th Avenue. 

Listen to our interview with Fiona Davis on episode 108 of the Book Cougars podcast.
https://www.bookcougars.com/blog-1/2020/episode108
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The iconic NYPL takes center stage in this book and is almost a character in an of itself.  The book switches between 1913 and 1993 and two families that have centered their lives around the library. In 1913 the Lyons family is living in the building as the father Jack is the main caretaker of the building.  His wife Laura is taking care of their two children and writing a human interest piece for the library newsletter but she is also unfulfilled in her domestic life.  We see Laura enroll in journalism school and during her classes becomes involved in the counter-culture and suffragist movement of Greenwich Village.  Book thefts of rare and first edition books make the living situation perilous for the Lyons and the ramifications of these thefts affect generations.  In 1993, Sadie Donovan works as a librarian in the same building in the Berg Collection and is tasked with an exhibition of rare items from the collection after her supervisor leaves.  When thefts of rare items begin again under Sadie's watch we see the ramifications of earlier thefts, family ties and misguided ideals come together and are eventually resolved in a mostly happy ending.  I enjoyed this book and enjoyed the glimpses of old New York during the 1913 time period.  I received a free b-book copy of this item.
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Fiona Davis has written another wonderful historical novel. A compelling story that centers around the New York Public Library.  Intricate storyline, relatable characters, and a fascinating look at a building are masterfully created by Davis.
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I'm not sure where the audience is for this title.  Sorry.  The parallel story idea was fine but updating to 1993 didn't add up.
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Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions gallantly standing at the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, were only 2 years old when Jack Lyons, along with his wife and two children, moves into a large apartment hidden away on the library’s mezzanine floor. It’s all part of Jack’s job as superintendent, an intriguing fact that Fiona Davis uses in her latest historical mystery, “The Lions of Fifth Avenue,” which was selected as “Good Morning America’s" August Book Pick.
“While researching, I discovered that when the library was built, the architects included a seven-room apartment deep inside, where the superintendent and his family lived for 30 years. I thought it would be the perfect setting for my book and I invented a fictional family — the Lyons — and decided to tell the story from the wife’s point of view in 1913, as well as from her granddaughter’s in 1993,” said Davis, who chose 1913 because that decade was when women made great strides, socially and economically. “What surprised me about the 1910s was just how actively women were involved in feminist causes, including the right to vote, the right to birth control, and the right to exert agency over their own lives. There was a huge movement forward in terms of the ‘New Woman,’ one who considered herself equal to men."
Living in the library creates an opportunity for Jack’s wife Laura, who yearns to be more than a housewife, and is mentored by Jack’s boss, who encourages her to find her own writing voice and helps her win entry to the Columbia School of Journalism. But Laura soon learns that she doesn’t want to be relegated to writing housewife-like features for the women’s section as expected, and instead becomes a noted essayist and crusader for women’s rights.
“It was wonderful to step back in time and imagine what it all was like then,” said Davis, noting that both she and Laura attended Columbia. “I earned my master’s degree there, so it was fun to draw on that experience.”
Fast forward 80 years in time to when Laura’s granddaughter, Sadie Donovan, a curator at the New York Public Library, is chosen to step in at the last moment to curate the Berg Collection of rare books. Among the rare papers are those of Laura Lyons, who had been forgotten over time, but whose writings are now being celebrated again.
At first proud of her connection to her grandmother and excited that Laura once lived at the library where she now works, Sadie hides their connection after discovering her grandmother and grandfather were caught up in a scandal about a rare book of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry, typically stored under lock and key, that’s gone missing.
Before long, history is repeating itself when Sadie finds that vital materials about her grandmother are also missing, and only a few people had the opportunity to take them, including Sadie herself. Soon Sadie, already shattered by her husband’s infidelity and the couple’s ultimate divorce, is the prime suspect of the theft. Her reputation is on the line as is her grandmother’s and solving the mystery is the only way to redeem them.
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This was my first Fiona Davis book and I was thoroughly impressed. The fact that the Lyons family had an apartment in the NY Public Library was beyond cool. I enjoyed all the descriptions of the ins and outs of the library told from both present and past narrators. Though I would classify this has historical fiction, the author incorporated a mystery involving missing manuscripts which began decades earlier and isn’t solved until present day. The element of suspense, as well as the plights of the two main characters make this a delicious page turner which I recommend to all.
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