Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

The Lions of Fifth Avenue is everything this librarian loves in a book - mystery, dual timelines and historical fiction all taking place in and around one of the most iconic libraries in the world. Love, love, loved everything about this book from the first page right to the very end where all the ends are neatly wrapped up in a satisfying ending. Highly recommend!
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Another great book from Fiona Davis about an historic building in New York City and this one may have been my favorite. A book about a library read by a librarian is typlically a winner. The characters were well developed along with the relationships. I didn't ejoy the tension between Sadie and Claude and feel like their romantic history didn't fit with the charcaters personalities. 
Overall any Fiona Davis book will be on my list and looking forward to what NYC icon building she will write about next.
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I am a big fan of Fiona Davis, and have read all her books. Fiona Davis novel The Lions of Fifth Avenue written with Fiona's beautiful works, and her marvelous descriptions of 1914 New York  I felt left the ending was flat.  It fizzled out. The story of Laura and her family living in the NYC Public library was fascinating,  For some of us crazy librarians that is one of our fantasies to be lock up in the NYC library.  I still enjoyed her story of Laura, and her great granddaughter Sadie so many years apart but so much a like. This is still book club material, looking forward to presenting it in my book club.
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Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. For me, it had all the makings of an engaging read: historical fiction, dual timelines, strong female characters, a bit of a mystery— and all centered around the New York Public Library and librarians, to boot.
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue alternatingly tells the stories of two women with a connection to the main branch of New York Public Library.  In the early 1910s Laura Lyons is living in the Library along with her husband, the building’s superintendent, and her two young children.  Desiring more out of life than familial duties, she pursues a degree from Columbia University’s school of journalism. Through her investigative assignments she is introduced and drawn to a group of bohemian women with (for the time) radical views on women’s rights.  Eighty years later Sadie Donovan is working at the same historic library as a librarian and aspiring curator.  She keeps a secret: she is the granddaughter of the renowned writer Laura Lyons.  When rare manuscripts and books go missing, Laura is determined to figure out the identity of the thief and how the crimes may be connected to her family.

Both the main characters are relatable: Laura for her desire to find her place in the world, and Sadie for her struggle to be accepted.  Although the connection between the two women seems a bit far fetched, it is just believable enough to make the story work.  The book is well written, and overall, is a wonderful ode to New York Public Library and the human need for authenticity and recognition.
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This book had me in the palm of its hand straight from the title, because I have always  loved the lions outside the New York Public Library.  (Did you know their names are Patience and Fortitude? Although at the time of the 1913 opening of the library at the center of this book, as the book taught me, they were called Astor and Lenox.) 

My hands-down favorite part of this novel was our 1914 heroine, the intrepid aspiring reporter Laura Lyons.
We also spend some time in the grunge era, with Sadie, a latter-day family member investigating mysterious thefts of rare books from the library. This mystery was also great - but I was just utterly charmed by Laura and the visions of old New York pre-suffrage that her timeline was giving me and perpetually could not wait for the next Laura chapter.  I loved reading about Laura finding her own voice through her reporting and submitting her feminist awakenings to men who were not yet ready for the ideas.  I learned a lot more in this book about the men in academia in this time period who put up barriers to women's graduation, expression, and overall success in what was still very much a man's world.  We also see how Laura is held back by the traditional opinions of her well-meaning husband.  ("How about you type up my manuscript for me?" he says at one point, trying to find Laura "something meaningful to do" after she faces sexism at school.)  And also, with many fun literary references of the era (Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" makes an appearance), Laura begins to have awakenings of her own.

This book is completely charming and captivating, and really makes you feel what it might have been like to be a woman trying to write in 1914 New York.  The author's love of books and words really shines through at all times, as does her love and knowledge of New York and its history.  This book was such a total pleasure to read, even though it was sad at times.  I really felt like I was right there in the library, and the New York Public Library is one of my favorite places.

4.5 stars.  Thanks to Penguin Random House, Fiona Davis and NetGalley for the advance copy.  It was a New York born feminist booklover's dream.
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis is a stimulating dual-timeline novel. The story moves between 1993 with Sadie Donovan and 1913 with Laura Lyons.  I found The Lions of Fifth Avenue to be well-written with interesting characters.  Laura Lyons was a woman ahead of her time.  Laura is a wife and mother who has become restless.  She is a Vassar graduate who would like a passion in her life.  Her husband, Jack is passionate about the book he is writing, and she wants to find something that fulfills her.  Laura is accepted into the Columbia Journalism School which opens a new world.  She is drawn to a group of women in Greenwich Village who belong to the Heterodoxy Club which encourages them to share their views and ideas on women’s suffrage, birth control, and much more.  Sadie works at the New York Public Library in the Berg Collection.  She becomes interim curator and is working hard on an upcoming exhibit.  Sadie would like to find something of her grandmother’s, Laura Lyons for the exhibit that would wow her boss.  Sadie’s mother was tight lipped about Laura and all of Laura’s papers were destroyed upon her death.  But Sadie is excellent at her job and she uncovers information that perhaps should remain buried.  When books start disappearing from the Berg Collection, it is reminiscent of thefts that occurred in 1913.  Sadie begins searching for answers.  I loved hearing about the apartment within the New York Public Library.  The author’s descriptions allowed me to imagine the vast library with its beautiful marble, painted ceilings, and the bast number of books.  I expect that many bibliophiles would love to live in a library (imagine the fun at night when everyone is gone).  I liked learning about the New York Public Library and the resources it contains. Sadie and Laura were developed characters with differing personalities.  The secondary characters were less developed.  The pacing was slower than I prefer. The mysteries surrounding the books was clever (how the deed was accomplished).  It is not difficult, though, figuring out the guilty parties.   I appreciated that everything was wrapped up at the end. The Lions of Fifths Avenue is an intriguing historical mystery with ancestral aenigmas, missing manuscripts, a manipulating mother, library lions, and bibliophile bliss.
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Fiona Davis is a terrific writer who chooses the most fascinating settings to tell her stories. This book lived up to her others. Very impressive. Like a pentimento, to see the past life of the library and its present was intriguing.  A wonderful read.
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Fiona Davis celebrates The Lions of Fifth Avenue that herald the New York Public Reference Library on Fifth Avenue.  This is a generational story of staff in the library who are wrongly implicated in stealing rare books from the library.  The 1993 Sadie Donovan is a curator of a rare books exhibit when some books go missing; through research she discovers a link to her grandparents who lived in the library apartment as her grandfather was superintendent of the library and committed suicide after accusations of book theft.  A complicated story well told.  Read for the satisfying conclusion which ties all the loose threads together.  For bibliophiles everywhere.
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A wonderful, intriguing tale of the New York Public Library told by Laura in 1913 and Sadie in 1993. There are 'missing' books from the rare book collection where they are kept under lock and key. How does the thief do it? What is the connection between Laura and Sadie? What secret does the NY Public Library building hold?
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This is the best of all worlds, historical fiction, mystery and general fiction. It was a very interesting story set in one of New York's iconic buildings, the library. Alternating between 1913 and 80 years later and the connections from the past tying the generations together.
Having read Fiona Davis on a few other occasions, I enjoy her way with words and I look forward to future books by her..
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue By Fiona Davis 

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Publication Date: 7/21/2020

** Thank you to Netgalley, Dutton Books, and of course, Fiona Davis, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

It is no surprise that I am a huge fan of Historical Fiction. I would honestly consider it to be one of my most read subjects beyond contemporary fiction. I also LOVED The Chelsea Girls, but what makes The Lions of Fifth Avenue even more special - there is a theme of BOOKS! Based in the year before the World went to War for the first time, Laura is the wife of the superintendent for the New York Public Library and lives in the building where books breathe life into the worlds of readers. 

Her life seems perfect on the outside - a great family -  a husband with a high paying job, two perfect children, and a roof over their heads. Laura wants more though. She decides to, on the whim, apply for Journalism School at Columbia. Suddenly, a headstrong and passionate Laura begins to see the world in a new light. Not long after she discovers the Heterodoxy Club - a radical, all-female group in search of Woman’s rights. It is not long before she begins to question everything her life is and should be. 

In 1993, Sadie Donovan, the granddaughter of Laura struggles with her Grandmother’s legacy. We find out Laura became the famous essayist she wanted to be, however, Sadie’s job as the curator at the NYPL became a nightmare once she finds items disappearing without a trace. The rare manuscripts, notes, and books must be saved in order for her to save her job, so Sadie goes to every length possible, eventually learning truths about her family and one of the biggest tragedies to hit the NYPL. 

I really enjoyed this book. As I have written in reviews before, The historical fiction genre has become oversaturated over the years. With this book being set in World War I, it enters a special category. Add in the themes and plot and it is unique to whatever is sitting on the shelf beside it. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for something different in a genre you love.
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The author creates not only an original story and intriguing characters but uses an unusual setting (living in the main New York Public Library!), the culture of the time, and a mystery to create a compelling, multifaceted tale.  Every element the author pulls in fits well into the story, and her writing style is of high quality and distinctive. I've already recommended this title to a patron.
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This is the kind of books that I love - The setting in the New York Public Library, mystery, women's history, famous authors and their books, with a history of two women, one from the 1914 where women were treated with no value except to accept the abuse from men. not all men, but some of them were right down low cast nut cases.  The second woman from 1993 with a big connection to the first woman.  It is thrilling and exciting with the mystery of stolen and valuable books and how they turn lives around.  The name of the Lions in front of the NY Library, Patience and Fortitude, would bow down to Ms. Fiona Davis.  I'm going to try her other books.  Just LOVED this book.  I want more.
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This is the first Fiona Davis book I've read.  I really enjoyed the alternating story lines.   The mystery of the missing books kept me guessing until the very end.   I recommend this book, and look forward to reading other books by this author,
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Thank you for the opportunity to review this book! Fiona Davis does not disappoint. The historical knowledge about the library allowed me to visit rooms, wander the staircase and feel the depth of loneliness this woman felt.
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I read to around the 25% mark of this book and had to stop.  I picked this book because I was interested in a story set in the NYPL, but unfortunately that's not what this book is about.  I have loved all the Fiona Davis books I have read, but just could not connect with this one.  The characters just felt off to me and I wanted more of the library mystery that the synopsis sold me on.  Since I didn't finish the book I will not be publishing a review or giving it a star rating.  I'm sorry, but this one just missed the mark for me.
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This is the third book I have read by Fiona Davis so I was very excited to receive the advance copy. The Lions of Fifth Avenue did not disappoint, combining a love of books, mysteries dealing with book thefts and the incredible architecture of the New York Library. There are two stories going on, one in 1913 after the library opened and one in 1990's, In 1913 Laura Lyons lives in the library with her husband who is the superintendent for the building and their two children. Laura is dealing with the feminist ideas of her time, going back to school to get a journalism degree and becoming part of a women's group looking for change and the vote.

Sadie Donovan is a curator at the library and also the granddaughter of Laura Lyons, dealing with her own personal issues. While investigating a theft in 1993, Sadie begins to learn more about her grandmother who had gone on to become well known for her essays. 

As always with a Fiona Davis novel, the building, this time the library, plays a big part in the story. Being surrounded by books sounds like heaven to those of us who love to read.  I also loved the strength of these women and enjoyed watching them grow as they learned more about themselves.
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I'm a fan of fiona Davis and how she weaves history and real places into her stories of strong women . The amazing NYC public library is the backdrop for this enjoyable mystery where things are lost and found and there is redemption in the truth.
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A mystery that spans generations this book is full of interesting facts about rare books and the New York public library.  The characters are so vivid and you feel as if you are experiencing the action along with them. I think this is Fiona Davis’ best book yet!
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