Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

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Member Reviews

If you like reading books about books, then you will love this book set in the New York Public Library in 1913 and 1993. Laura Lyons is married to Jack the superintendent of the library. Along with their two children, they live in an apartment in the library. Laura wants to be more than a wife and mother. She wants to contribute financially. In 1993 Laura’s granddaughter Sadie works at the library and is planning an exhibition of some of the library’s treasures. What do these dual storylines have in common? Thefts of rare books. 

In her usual fashion, Fiona Davis leaves you in the edge of your seat when she jumps timelines. I found myself reading late into the night because I just HAD to know what would happen next. I appreciated Laura Lyons’ quest to make more of her life and her interest in the Heterodoxy Club. Sadie’s own personal history left her afraid to get close to people other than her family. Her growth was refreshing. 

I will be recommending this book heartily. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book! Fiona Davis gives us a fascinating story of the NY Public Library, the family who called it home and a mystery of missing books. She uses alternating points of time...between 1914 and 1993...and alternating narrators. In 1993 Sadie sets out to solve the mystery of rare books that have gone missing from an exhibit she is curating and then her mother makes a cryptic remark about past events before she dies, so she sets out on a journey to discover the mystery of her family, especially that of her grandmother Laura Lyons, a famous  essayist and early proponent of women's rights. The journey leads Laura to discover many surprising facts about her family, past and present. But most importantly about herself. Fiona Davis makes the old building come alive, both aesthetically and historically, revealing some of it's hidden secrets.
 I loved the Masterpiece, her book about Grand Central Station, after reading this book I think it's time to go back and catch up on her other books.
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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If given the opportunity to live someplace out of the ordinary, most people would choose a tree-house, or the top of a mountain.  Me? I'd choose the architectural magnificence of the New York Public Library.  Who wouldn't want to snuggle up with a book in a corner of one of the most famous libraries in the world, at any time of the day or night? Well, it's not going to happen for me because Mrs. Lyons stole my dream!

The year is 1913, and the Lyons, mother, father, and two children, live in an apartment behind a secret stairway in said library.  Mr. Lyons accepted the job of supervisor, and the apartment was a perk.  

But among all this splendor, Mrs. Lyons feels a restlessness deep down in her soul, that was very common to women of her era.  She wants to go back to school for an advanced degree.  She is searching for the ability to stand on her own two feet, whatever comes her way.  Her husband, however, is perplexed over why she would choose this route over full-time motherhood.  So, therein lies the problem.

Fast forward to 1993 with library worker, Sadie Donovan.  Although equality issues aren't as mainstreamed during this time period, they do exist behind the scenes.  Like Mrs. Lyons, Sadie is determined to work her way up the ladder and leave her mark on the world.  Interestingly enough, she also has an unusual problem in common with Mrs. Lyons that she has to deal with, which involves a serious of mysterious book thefts at the library.

Author Fiona Davis has mastered the art of the tease with this novel.  Shocking events are immediately followed by character and time period changes, thus forcing the reader to wait in glorious suspense.  Going on this journey of enlightenment with women as wonderful as Mrs. Lyons and Sadie Donovan was an exhilarating experience!
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Author #Fiona Davis has a new novel out this week #’The Lions of Fifth Avenue. Her lastest Historical Novel, is about a series of book thefts at the iconic New York Public Libary, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to carry on.
This novel is so good. And it starts from 1913 with Laura Lyons who is a wonderful character. All of sudden it’s eighty years later.......
Thank you,
#netgalley, # Fiona Davis and #Penguin Group Dutton
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE started off slow and a bit frustrating but ended well. I had hoped to break the string of mediocre ARCs I've been stuck on, but unfortunately, this book didn't do the job.

Books are being stolen from the venerated New York Public Library and no one can figure out how. Taking us deep into the inner workings of the fabulous NYPL, LIONS weaves dual timelines to tell the stories of two women.  Laura Lyons lives inside the NYPL where her husband works as the first superintendent in the early 20th century.  She yearns to do more than be a homemaker: she wants her voice to be heard, she wants to work and earn financial independence, and she wants to love on her own terms.  But while she pursues each of these dreams, her family is slowly coming apart at the seams.  Seven decades later, her granddaughter is facing her own struggle to live her most fearless life.  Sadie has her job as a rare book librarian at the NYPL but not much else to show for her 40+ years.  And even her career is threatened when another rash of book thefts begins on her watch.

I had a lot of trouble getting into this novel.  I kept putting it down and having to remind myself to pick it back up, to read just a little more.  Mostly I think this was down to some of the choices the characters made.  Davis provides plenty of foreshadowing, so it's not hard to see that bad decisions are being made.  I'm not particularly sure why this bothered me so much in this novel; maybe it's just the unforgiving mindset I'm in right now.  But every time one of the characters "did a bad thing," I had to put the book down and walk away.  I'm not going to punish the book for this too much, however.  I really do think it was more a case of "it's me, not you."

Despite the slow and tenuous start, the last 40% really grabbed my attention.   The mystery of the book theft started to pull me in, and the action certainly picked up.  I was also pleasantly surprised that I had not predicted the culprit's identity.  Davis uses some clever sleight of hand to redirect our attention away from a few key pieces of information.  

The novel jumps around a lot, not just between timelines, but between themes too.  I feel like Davis might have tried to make Laura too much of a revolutionary to be believable, but on the other hand, it was super interesting to get a view of Greenwich Village in the 1910s.  Sadie's character was more traditional (and a bit more pathetic?), but I loved her appreciation for and expertise with rare books.  Unfortunately, I never really connected with either woman.  In my opinion, Laura was a caricature, and Sadie was a rough sketch.

LIONS is a pretty entertaining read.  I give it 3.5 stars rounded up because I might have been grouchy while reading it.  Readers with an interest in libraries and turn-of-the-century New York will find much to like in Davis' most recent novel.
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3.5 stars

This was my first Fiona Davis novel. It was an interesting story, but slightly unsatisfying. It does feel like there have been a lot of dual voice, dual era novels lately. In this story, we switch back and forth between future feminist activist Laura Lyons in 1913 and her granddaughter Sophie, a librarian in 1993. The thread that connects them, aside from the family relationship, is the New York Public Library and some unsettling rare book thefts in each time period.

Laura Lyons is married with two children when the book begins. Her husband is a librarian and they live in an apartment inside the library. That apartment actually did exist which was a bit of a fascinating side story. Laura loves her family, but yearns after a career and some fulfillment outside her home. The family's energies mostly go toward nurturing her husband while he finishes his novel. She manages to scrape together enough money to go to graduate school in journalism, only to be met by serious gender discrimination and out and out theft of her written classwork.

Priceless books begin to disappear from the library and Laura's husband is suspected. Laura is torn between her family and a different sort of life away from them.

Fast forward 80 years. Sophie is divorced and emotionally walled off. Her mother, Laura's daughter, won't talk about her childhood or family much. After her death, Sophie still knows very little about her parents or grandparents. But again, rare and valuable books are missing from the collection and Sophie is panicked since they are all part of a major exhibit that she is putting together. 

As she investigates the thefts, she discovers more about what happened with her family all those years ago. And then Sophie falls under suspicion.

Not a bad read, but (and perhaps this was the intention) confusing in terms of Laura Lyons' character and life goals. Obviously she was torn between two worlds. Neither Sophie nor Laura was an especially appealing character to me. The plot depended on a lot of coincidence. 

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I am talking about the new book —
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis!

This is a great mystery!
It starts in New York City in 1913, in the New York Public Library.
A family actually lived inside the library for 30 years! 
For me (a book nerd) that would be awesome!
There are 2 stone lions in front of the library, thus the title of the book.

Anyway, one-of-a-kind books are disappearing.
It ends with a death.
Then 80 years later, the granddaughter ends up working at the NY Public Library.
It is up to her to solve the 80-year-old mystery.

This book grabbed my attention, and never let go!

The author answers —
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO FOCUS ON RARE BOOK THEFTS?
The theft in the novel is inspired by one that occurred in 1994 at Columbia University’s Butler Library, in which a thief stole $1.8 million in rare books, manuscripts, and letters over the course of three months. I was lucky enough to interview Jean Ashton, the University’s librarian at that time, as part of my research.

It’s a different kind of mystery, and really tough to solve!
At the center of the story is the family living in the library, and the library itself.
Quite unusual, but actually based on history.
There really was an apartment for the Library Superintendent and family to live in.

If you love a mystery, this is a great book!
If you love libraries, this book will indulge you!
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Fiona Davis' latest novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenue, is another excellent work of women-centered historical fiction. Set in the main branch of the New York Public Library in 1913 and 1993, the story follows Laura Lyons and, eighty years later, her granddaughter Sadie Donovan. The dual timelines work together to unravel a string of mysterious rare book thefts decades apart.

Wife, mother, and aspiring writer Laura lives in a hidden apartment inside the library with her husband and two young children, but as much as she loves her picture-perfect family, she craves a career in journalism. After enrolling in the Columbia School of Journalism, she finds herself swept up by the radical women of Greenwich Village, activists who rail against the patriarchal society that restricts female autonomy. Drawn like a sheltered moth to the bright flame of this movement, Laura finds not only article inspiration for her class assignments, but a camaraderie that grows into an intense escape from her stifling domestic life.

Librarian Sadie is in charge of a massive rare book exhibition at NYPL, but her curating plans derail when integral works in the collection begin to disappear. She is under scrutiny for the thefts, but is determined to uncover the truth behind both the recent crimes and the long-unsolved mystery of missing books from the time her grandmother lived in the library apartments. 

Both women navigate the fine line between desire and duty as they strive to find solace from tumultuous tension at work and home. My only criticisms were I wanted even more of Laura's journeys into Greenwich Village bohemia, and I found some of Sadie's chapters to be less engaging than the 1913 chapters at certain points. But I really loved the queer content and the strong, smart, flawed women at the center of the story. Overall, the main characters were likable and the atmosphere lovely.

[4/5: A fast read that made my librarian heart happy (even though Sadie used gloves on thin paper but that's okay I'm okay). It is very clear how much Fiona Davis loves the NYPL, and I enjoyed learning about the little secrets of the beautiful main branch building. Readers of historical fiction, especially novels with dual timelines, will enjoy this one. And anyone looking for 'books about books/libraries' will find much to savor here!]

Many thanks to the publisher (Penguin Random House) and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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The best kind of historical fiction drives the reader to find out more, and Fiona Davis does this with her newest New York City novel centered on the main branch of the New York Public Library.  This fabulous building makes an engaging setting for the story set between two time periods and two women who are attached to the library--and to each other--in unique ways.  The mysteries of each time period propels the storylines along, and societal concerns of the eras provide food for thought.
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Fiona Davis writes dual-timeline, historical fiction set in iconic New York buildings. They are thoroughly researched to ensure factual accuracy. She uses that as a springboard to create beautifully crafted stories about women working through struggles and coming out stronger, wiser, better.

The Lions of New York is her best so far. Fascinating building, engaging characters, interesting time period when the role of women was changing so drastically and compelling personal stories.

Five stars is not enough.
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Every Fiona Davis novel is a treat, and this, her latest, is no exception. I loved traveling through the passages and rooms of a long ago time in the New York Public Library. I loved all the tidbits sprinkled throughout about rare books and the care and keeping of them. I loved how the story - both stories! - kept me on the very edge of my seat. And maybe most of all I loved Laura, who learned what her passion was and blazed her own trail. 

I'm a big-time fan of Fiona Davis, and her novels are definitely high on my list of recommendations. 

Thank you, Netgalley, for this arc.
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This is my first time reading a novel by Fiona Davis and I was definitely impressed. I can't believe I waited so long to read one and I definitely want to read more!

The story was really interesting and had a Susan Meissner feel to it with going back and forth between time periods and capturing pieces of history. One of my close friends works for the New York Public Library, so it was even more fascinating to learn about the library's inner workings for that reason, as well. It made me want to visit the library the next time I have a chance to travel to New York.

I liked both leading characters and found them relatable in different ways. I didn't expect the outcome to be what it was, so I was definitely surprised. The details helped move the story along and made me feel like I was right there with the characters. It was definitely a page turner.

If you like history and mystery, along with the feeling of being surrounded by books, this is the novel for you!

Movie casting suggestions:
Laura: Lily James
Jack: Bug Hall
Amelia: Melissa Roxburgh
Sadie: Sally Hawkins
Lonnie: Lee Pace
LuAnn: Riki Lindhome
Robin: Holly Earl
Nick: Ethan Suplee
Claude: Ben Schwartz
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Fiona Davis’ newest entry in her historical fiction collection contains her traditional writing techniques; namely dual timelines and the themes of women’s rights and their struggles to obtain equal status to men. Her choice of New York venue for this outing is the iconic New York Public Library. Even if you haven’t visited the NYPL, we all know the iconic building at first sight with a pair of stone lions flanking the stairs at the entrance; and who doesn’t remember Carrie’s almost wedding to Big, held at the library in the first Sex and the City movie???

At the beginning of the 1914 storyline, we are introduced to Laura and Jack and their two children, Harry and Pearl. Jack was hired to be the library superintendent and the family resides in an apartment in the library. There are detailed descriptions of certain parts of the library such as the rare book room and the residence, however, I found myself wanting more description of the public areas. I had high hopes for great descriptions of the library which the public can access, but I found that the most descriptive passages were areas which are hidden to the public.

The book’s second timeline in 1993 features Sadie, Pearl’s daughter, who also works at the library. The theme that ties these two storylines together is the theft of several rare books that occur under Jack’s watch and then again under Sadie’s decades later.

In the end, Davis has provided us with a solid historical fiction novel, but personally, I was a bit disappointed and don’t feel that it compares to her previous work, The Masterpiece. I had a difficult time connecting with these characters in comparison to her other work.

Thank you to the publishers – Dutton (Penguin Group) and to Netgalley for providing this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

Review will be posted on my blog, social networking sites and major book retailers upon publication date.

3/5 Stars
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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…..it’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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