Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

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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Historical fiction that weaves the life of a 1913 mother and wife who aspires to be a journalist as her family lives in the New York Public Library as caretakers with a NYPL librarian in the 1990s creating an exhibit of the rare materials connected to authors for the library. The links between the two women are both familial - the 1990s woman is the granddaughter of the 1913 woman - and circumstantial - thefts of rare materials occurring in much the same way plague both.

It's a bit slow to start, but it picks up momentum about halfway through and is a pretty good read until then. Nice ending, too.
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Great read! The author draws you in with detail that makes you want to read on. I love when books making you feel like you are part of the story.
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Books about books are some of my favourites to read, especially when they involve libraries. I really enjoyed this one. I loved both of our main characters, Laura and Sarah, and I think the time period was perfectly captured for both.
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I love that Davis sets her historical fiction in and around famous buildings in New York City, and I was very excited to read this one centered at the iconic New York Public Library.

This book ticked so many boxes for me, I was thrilled to receive a copy through NetGalley.

First box ticked: The Lions of Fifth Avenue is my favorite type of book: historical fiction with dual timelines and multiple POVs. Davis is so good at crafting a story across multiple generations, and this book is no exception. The plot flips back and forth between 1913 and 1993 seamlessly, is full of rich detail about the library, and does a great job of capturing the feeling of both time periods.

Next box ticked: interesting female characters. In this book, we get Laura Lyons, who is living the life of many of her contemporaries as a housewife and mother, but wants more for herself. She ends up going back to school for journalism and discovering a lot about herself while she explores the feminist movement in NYC in the early 20th century. We also get Laura’s granddaughter, Sadie, a divorced, childless librarian in the 1990s trying to solve modern day thefts and delving into her family history while also discovering some things about herself. Both characters are well-written and distinct, and I enjoyed being in both of their heads.

Which leads me to another ticked box: feminist themes. Both women go on their own personal journey about what it means to be a woman in their time and discover truths about themselves. I especially loved Laura’s path from housewife and mother to journalist, activist, and feminist essayist. Amelia is a fantastic character as well.

The gorgeous New York Public Library is the setting for both storylines and really becomes a character itself. I had no idea that the superintendent of the library and his family once lived in an apartment inside the library, but that is such a fascinating story in and of itself. The descriptions of the library were vivid and obviously well-researched. And who doesn’t love the magic of a library?

While I appreciated the writing and the characters very much, the ultimate resolution of the mystery seemed a little too far-fetched for me, and ultimately didn’t seem to go well with the rest of the book. Laura’s story was more believable and interesting than Sadie’s, and the ending was just a bit Scooby-Doo, which ended up taking a way from my enjoyment in a way.

Still, a fun and light story about interesting women and a beautiful library. Absolutely worth the read for fans of Fiona Davis and historical women’s fiction.

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The Lions of Fifth Avenue
By: Fiona Davis

Book lover’s rejoice!  This book is for you!  A book about a Library . . . sign me up!

It’s 1913 and on paper Laura Lyons has it all.  Her husband Jack is the superintendent of the New York City Public Library, which comes with a major perk, an apartment inside the library.  They are blessed with two children.  She writes a small newspaper column for the library.  But, Laura wants more than that, so she takes a leap of faith and applies for Columbia Journalism School.

It’s 1993 and Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist, Laura Lyons, especially after being promoted to curator at the New York Public Library.  So, while this book is a historical fiction, it actually has a lot mystery going on too.  In both timelines, books begin to go missing from the library.  It kept me guessing right up until the end!  I had no idea who was taking the books!

The author did a great job with the character development.  I found myself rooting for both characters as they grew in their roles of writer and curator.  However, if I am being honest, I much preferred Laura’s chapters.  I enjoyed her pivoting from just a wife and mom to a confident and feminist writer!

Overall, this was a solid read and I rate it 4 stars.  Now which Fiona Davis backlist book should I read next!?
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From my blog: Always With a Book:

I simply adore reading Fiona Davis's books - I love the way she takes an iconic building in one of my favorite cities in the world, NYC - and brings it to life, giving us the history in such an engaging story that you can't help but feel part of. This time, The New York Public Library is her inspiration.

While I usually do not know anything about the buildings that Fiona writes about in her books, this time not only did I know the building, I have been to it many times. I love going to the New York Public Library whenever I have the chance when I am in NYC, and have made a point of checking out the exhibits that they have on display. I did not, however know that there was at one point a residence in the library...this is why I love reading not only Fiona's books, but historical fiction in general. I always learn something new!

The dual narrative works so well with this story, moving effortlessly back and forth, slowly drawing you in. It's easy to get wrapped up into both Laura and Sadie's stories and with the mystery of the missing books, which is the connection between the two timelines...and I was often frustrated when it came time to switch between the two timelines...there were times, I just wanted to stay in one part or the other a bit longer! I was equally invested in both timelines and I found myself rooting for both women, both of which I found to be strong-willed and smart.

This book had me yearning to get back to the city, to visit the New York Public Library. I don't know when I will be able to get back there next, but I know that I will certainly look at it in a different light.
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In 1913 the Lyons family lived in the newly completed NY Public Library building on 5th Avenue. Jack Lyons was employed as the superintendent of the building and lived there with his wife Laura and children, Harry and Pearl. Laura aspired to be a newspaper writer and was able to get into the newly established School of Journalism at Columbia University. Jack was working on a novel in his free time. 
Then there were a series of thefts of rare books.  Jack and his family had access to the locked area where the books were stored. So immediately they came under suspicion.  However something happened and the family was forced to leave the library forever in 1914.
Eighty years later Sadie Donovan, the granddaughter of Jack and Laura,  was now employed by the NYPL to work as an assistant curator of the Berg Collection of rare books. Her ailing mother, Pearl, would not talk about her time living in the library.  Sadie’s  grandmother, Laura Lyons, went on to become a famous essayist specializing in women’s rights and some of her things were included in the Berg Collection. 
However right before her death, Pearl disclosed to her granddaughter, Valentina, some information about one of the stolen books. Pearl died soon after Sadie was appointed acting Curator of the Berg Collection in 1993.  Soon after Pearl’s death,  it was discovered that some rare and valuable books were once again stolen from the Berg Collection. 
Sadie took it upon herself to assist a private investigator and  help find the books.  She also wanted to solve the mystery of her grandparents’ lives while living at the NYPL.
This book examines the architecture of the library with all its nooks and crannies. The characters are fictional as are the incidents of thefts of those books. However the author spins a very engaging story about strong women and about one of the architectural gems of NYC that is usually on public display. 
My first job out of college was with the NYPL. Although I did not work at the building in the story, I visited it several times while employed at a local branch library. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of this famous library.

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This is a fantastic historical mystery set in a massive library filled with disappointment and hope. Fiona Davis brings the building to life in a way that no other author can match. She delves into the actual architectural drawings of the building and often walks the corridors of the building alongside an architect. Having this foundation to build on is what sets Fiona Davis apart and what keeps us all anticipating the secrets uncovered in hidden passageways and reconstructed walls. This book was worth waiting for. Not only does the New York City Public Library act as an ideal setting for this novel, the characters are highly engaging. Fiona weaves together the stories of Laura Lyons (1913) and Sadie Donovan (1993), two strong women who have different connections to the New York Public Library. As the story unfolds, we learn the inner-workings of how rare library collections are handled. Book lovers will enjoy the fine details of the curation of collections as well as the detective work required to identify the unique markings and retrieve stolen books.  This book compels you to root for all the characters to share their “truth” and use their vulnerabilities to find redemption and improve their lives.
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Lions of Fifth Avenue is the best novel I have read this year. I don't think it is going to change. This is the second novel I read about books this year. I dare say, I have received, Fiona Davis's previous novels. But, unfortunately, I have not picked up one. Well, that is changing. 

Fiona Davis's previous novels are a famous landmark in NYC. I learned so much about the goings-on in the library behind the scenes. I wasn't aware of. 
 Ms. Davis learned when the library first opened. A superintendent, John Fedeler,  and his family did reside in an apartment in the library( Wow! that was an eye-opener). She ran with that idea and the premise of the novel. What a great idea. 

There is so much to talk about. I don't know where to begin...

Laura and her husband, Josh, the superintendent at the library,  and their two kids live inside the NYPL, in an apartment. OMG! How I wish I could be that person. She is the typical "housewife". But, she wants more. She jumps at the chance to go to Columbia School of Journalism, her dream. 

 Laura Lyons, and Sadie, are in different time periods, 1913, and 1993. The mystery of a book, Tamerlane, and several other books, and the family tree of Sadie, and Laura Lyons, the feminist essayist is the interconnection of both(not a real person). Which gives a satisfying read.  

After she starts attending classes. She becomes hooked, and the world seems to be changing radically. She wants to be able to be in the thick of it, and become a journalist.  She learns that life is not always what it seems to be for women, and the world is not always fair, and not just for women, for many other causes.  

Her professor assigns her to assignments she doesn't particularly like. 
Instead, she makes up her own assignments. She attends women's meetings and learns how the world really works. She is ready to tackle the world, but something happens. Her professor fails her work. Because it is controversial, and because she is a woman.  

Her Professor steals her work and publishes it without her knowledge. She is kicked out of the meetings, and the people that she thought were behind her, weren't. He son gets in with a bad crowd while she is going to journalism school. She feels she has neglected her son, and her family. She is to blame for this, as well as her marriage is in jeopardy. 

No, I am not going to tell you anymore....

At the same time, we learn about Sadie, the curator in the Berg Collection at the NYPL in 1993. She has some troubles of her own. Besides, Sadie doesn't tell her colleagues, the connection with Laura Lyons, the famous feminist essayist, and herself. In different time periods, Sadie and Laura are threatened by book thefts that appear suspicious in both time periods and are parallel. I just loved the imagination of the author that wove these two stories into historical fiction, and a mystery wrapped together tightly into one great novel for 2020!
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How many of us would love to live in a library? All those books, there for the browsing whenever you want. Tempting! This was a well-plotted, intriguing novel full of interesting characters. I enjoyed the fact that it didn’t alternate chapters and developed the story before switching historical timelines.
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The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Davis. Where have I been, right? The duel timeline storylines — 1914 and 1993 — are told by Laura Lyons and 80 years later by her granddaughter, Sadie. Laura once lived in the New York Public Library with her children and husband, who was superintendent of the library and Sadie works there in later years as a curator of rare books. The family connection was a great way to bring the stories together and wrapped up a mystery with a tidy bow. In fact, perhaps a bit too tidy. While I did enjoy the twists the story took, I was able to figure out the culprits fairly early on. Fiona writes an engaging tale that will appeal to a variety of readers.

Thank you, Dutton (Penguin Group) and Netgalley for an ebook copy of this book. Thoughts are my own.

Reasons I liked this book:

So much interesting info about rare books.

Feminism and women’s suffrage.

Believable family conflict.

Minimal romance — it doesn’t always have to be hot and heavy.

Book Quotes: ” The beggar’s black mourning gown was more tattered than it had been last week, fraying at the sleeves and hem, and her face shone with summer sweat. Every few days for the past month, she’d taken up a spot off the one side of the grand entryway under one of the towering stone lions, one of which had been name Leo Astor and the other Leo Lenox, after two of the library’s founders, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox.”

“She sat down in the big chair by the fire and cried. She cried for her boy, for her husband, for the life she imagined she’d be leading. For her arrogance at thinking she deserved more than she had. For the fact that she was willing to destroy a treasured piece of history if it helped keep her family together.”

Rating: 3.5 stars

Similar books you might enjoy: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier.

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Mystery, intrigue and dual timelines at the New York Public Library make this a perfect recipe for a five star read! I’ve loved all of Fiona’s books (this is book 5) and whether you are new to her work or a long time fan, you can’t go wrong with picking up The Lions of Fifth Avenue!

Thank you to Dutton for an advanced copy. All opinions are my own.
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Great book! One of the best descriptions of what it's like to work in a special collections I've read and an intriguing story and characters to boot!
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Stolen Books and the New York Public Library

In 1913, Jack Lyons, superintendent of the New York Public Library, lives with his family in an apartment in the building. His wife Laura loves living in the building with Jack and their two children, but she wants more. She applies to the Columbia Journalism School and is accepted. She faces discrimination, but she also makes friends with like-minded women who are fighting for the right to express their opinions, to earn their own money, and to have equal rights. Laura is torn between worlds until the theft of rare manuscripts from the library threatens everything. 

In 1993, Sadie Donovan, Laura’s granddaughter, works at the New York Public Library where she has been promoted to curator of the Berg collection. She’s preparing for an exhibition when history seems to repeat itself when rare books start disappearing. With the help of a detective, she sets out to solve the mystery which could involve her family. 

This is a great story of family secrets centered around a famous library. I loved the characters. Laura and Sadie were well developed and perfect for their time periods. The story moved quickly and the time periods meshed well. 

For me the best part was being introduced to the library through the eyes of people who worked and lived there. This is an amazing book. I recommend it. 

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
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I love Fiona Davis’ concept of writing about historic buildings in NYC and building fictional stories around them and their original time periods.  Learning the backstory of the opening of the famous NYC Public Library and getting a glimpse into the current day historical preservation of literary artifacts was fascinating to this book nerd.
   I do wish that we had been able to get to know the main character, Sadie, a bit more instead just Laura.  Sadie was a good character that could have been great if only she was given more personality!  I did love the mystery but felt the end was a bit rushed, but it was all explained and tidied up at the end, if you like that sort of thing.  
   I did like this story, but I did not love it as I just never really LOVED any of the characters. The setting and period were fascinating and are what kept me reading.
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I think I am the only person in the world who just couldn't get into this book.  I have tried and tried but I couldn't stay forcus.    I will try again at a later time and hopefully i will enjoy this more.
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I enjoy dual timeline stories, and I'd heard so much about this book that I was excited to check it out. It takes place in 1913 (Laura) and 1993 (Sadie). There's a mystery about stolen books that connects the women. The pace was a bit slower than expected, but it did pick up in the latter half of the book. I loved the fact that it took place in the New York Public Library (what booklover wouldn't enjoy that?!). Sadly, the plot lines weren't equally developed. There was a subplot that I wasn't expecting based on the description, and I felt that it didn't really add anything to the story and could've easily been removed.

I've never read anything by this author, but I may check out future books.
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Loved this excellent history-mystery of an NYC architectural icon. Then cover invites you in, the characters give the tour, and I am richer for having read this captivating account of a building and it's people. The architectural detail, city walking tour and the rare book treasures all expanded my horizons! Well done Fiona Davis.
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As soon as I saw the cover of this book and read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it.  This historical fiction/mystery takes place in two timelines, 1913 and 1993.  The common thread between them is the NYPL.  In 1913, Laura Lyons lives inside the library, in an apartment there with her husband and two children.  Her husband is the superintendent of the library.  Laura dreams of being a journalist and when she gets accepted to the Columbia School of Journalism, Laura’s entire world changes.  She meets a group of progressive women who talk about suffrage, politics, women’s rights—radical issues in 1913.  In 1993, Sadie Donovan is a curator at the NYPL and these two women share a connection that is deeper than their love of books.
What I loved:  The dual timelines blended together seamlessly.  The setting was phenomenal and that alone made it worth reading.  I learned so much about the NYPL, past and present.  The lore of the library and the knowledge about rare books, manuscripts and diaries was woven into the story so it didn’t feel like a boring history lesson.  The theft of rare books spanned both timelines and wove together to create a mystery that kept me engaged.  Laura is a strong, determined, passionate woman and I enjoyed reading about her struggles even though I found Laura’s story to be tragic in the back half of the book. I loved the diversity of the characters as well.
What didn’t work for me:  The connection between Sadie and a detective who is hired to investigate the theft from the library felt forced.  The reveal of the 1993 was just okay.  It felt like a bit of a letdown.
Read it?  Yes! If you love historical fiction, NYC, libraries, diverse characters, and a dual timeline mystery, you need to read this one. 😊 Thank you Dutton and NetGalley for my copy!
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