Cover Image: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.

Review Posted to:
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
"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!
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Fans of historical fiction, books, libraries and strong-women will enjoy this story. There are LGBT threads which felt genuine and highlighted the struggles for women in the 1900s and will feel relevant even today.  

Full review will post at Caffeinated Reviewer. It will be uplifted across social media.  A review will cross-post to Goodreads and Amazon.
Was this review helpful?
NetGalley ARC | I just love historical fiction and books that take place in libraries.  Head to the NYPL in both the past and present to solve the case of the missing rare books.

I appreciated the feminist edge, LGBTQ+ love story, and just overall adoration and appreciation for literature.  With light suspense, this is the perfect summer read.

You can see my full review along with other August 2020 book releases on The Uncorked Librarian here:

Thank you so much to the author and publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I am learning quickly that I love a story told from dual timelines, and this one is done well. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is told from the perspective of two women and their tie to the New York Public Library. In 1913, Laura Lyons lives in the library with her family while her husband is the library superintendent. In 1993, Sadie Donovan works as a curator in the library. 
This story is beautiful, not only in the way the library comes to life, but in the  story of the importance and evolution of literature. This story also has strong female leads, a twisting mystery, and the importance of second chances in love and with family. 
I would definitely recommend this book!
Was this review helpful?
Historical Fiction about a library just about tops the list for me. But when you get more specific and the library is one of the world’s best, “The New York Public Library,” you have my attention.

 Fiona Davis said it best, “Early into my research on the building, I discovered that when the library was built, the 
 architects included s seven-room apartment, deep inside, where the superintendent and his family lived for 
 thirty years. He and his wife raised their three children there, and once I learned that I knew it would make the 
 perfect setting for The Lions of Fifth Avenue. 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 her granddaughter’s in 1993.” 

I was already going to read this book, but when I read the above paragraph, I was sold. 

Let us discuss the ‘elephant in the room,’ uhm, pardon me; I mean the ‘Lions on the steps’ first. They are icons for this beautiful building and were first named for two of the benefactors, “Leo Astor” for John Jacob Astor, and “Leo Lenox” for James Lenox. They were later changed by NY City Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia, during the Great Depression, as Patience and Fortitude, to reflect the virtues needed during that era. The names stuck. I can go on and on with facts about this marvelous marble masterpiece, but you will discover all the fun facts within the book. (I always want more.) 

The Lyons family are living in the private, seven-room apartment snuggled within the library because Jack Lyons, husband and father, is the Library’s Superintendent. His wife, Laura, and two children, Harry, eleven years-old, and Pearl, seven years-old, live with him. Naturally, the kids adore living in the library, especially at night when they feel it is their private playground. Laura has to quickly set some rules where they visit one room a night accompanied by her. Her husband Jack is usually too busy with paperwork involving the entire library’s staff and budget. He is also working on writing his own book so that leaves all family duties to Laura. Even though it is 1913, women have become restless with discovering and nurturing their own intellects. Laura really wants to attend Journalism school but does not know how she can manage her household and the finances let alone talk to Jack about the subject.

During this time, their son, Harry begins to act out and gets involved with some ‘rough characters’ at his school. Unbeknownst to his parents, Harry stops going to school and starts swiping some books from the library. Laura does start going to Journalism school and gets involved in a women’s intellectual organization. Chaos ensues.

Advance eighty years to 1993 where we find Sadie, unaware she is Laura Lyons granddaughter, working at the same library as a curator and researcher. Sadie is quite intelligent but awkward in some of the social graces. She was married before to Phillip, who was not nice to her. Sadie’s mother Pearl is in ill health and living with her brother, Lonnie, all in Manhattan. Pearl never told her two children much about her parents, Jack and Laura Lyons, and her brother Harry. She has good reasons for this, but they were her personal decisions. Lonnie and his wife have an adorable young daughter that they have hired a babysitter for, Robin, since they are both professionals with demanding jobs. Robin might not be as nice as she seems. 

Meanwhile, back at the library books are starting to ‘go missing.’ Everyone is suspecting everyone else; especially Sadie and her co-worker who have access to rare books and valuable collections. Again, chaos ensues.

So much happens within each time period I am merely glossing over basic story points to pique your interest. If you thought I was spilling the whole story, spoilers and all, you would be oh so wrong. I jest and am just joshing. ‘Har har!’ 

Both time periods tie together in amazing ways by our super sleuth, Sadie. Get ready for a bumpy ride through the decades plus new light on library thievery. I never realized, but it does make sense. All those valuable but precious rare books!

There was an article in mid-June from Pittsburgh, PA. concerning two men who stole over $8.1 million worth of rare books and artifacts from the Carnegie Library over twenty-five years. One man was a librarian and the other a bookshop owner. They were just caught last year, 2019. It is a serious business, unfortunately.

In summary, this might sound like an epic, but it moves quickly, and you can easily keep up with the characters. I would read any Historical Fiction book Fiona Davis writes; you can easily see she is passionate about her work. Highly recommend. 

Thank you Netgalley, Penguin Random House, and Fiona Davis
Was this review helpful?
A great love story to the New York Public Library world famous for both its architecture and collections of all things related to books and authors.   The story involves secrets, familial relationships, love, and theft.  A dual timeline story of a grandmother and granddaughter who are both grappling with mysteries of rare and valuable books stolen from the library while they are living or working there, respectively.  Their stories take place about 80 years apart and are beautifully intertwined to a lovely conclusion.  The best part of the book takes place when the grandmother and her family are living in the apartment housed within the library.  Facts about the library’s design, rare books, and articles in the library’s collections are scattered throughout the story making it a more enjoyable read for history buffs and bibliophiles alike.
Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton (an imprint of Penguin Random House) for the ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Fiona Davis, queen of NYC historical fiction, has done it again with this thrilling, mysterious and wonderful novel about a fictional family living in the New York Public Library’s real superintendent apartment hidden in the main branch. In 1913, Laura Lyons, her husband Jack and 2 children move into the library for Jack’s new job. Laura is desperate to build her own career and help make money for the family, starts attending Columbia Journalism School and begins to mix and mingle with the women of the time fighting for woman’s rights. But, things start to get tricky for the family when priceless books start to go missing from the library. 80 years later in 1993, Laura’s granddaughter works as a archivist/librarian at the library when priceless books start to go missing for her as well. Are the book thefts somehow connected to her family history??? What a great book this was!! I loved reading about the 1910s and I had such a fun time reading the two women’s stories and how they did or didn’t connect. 5 stars!
Was this review helpful?
What more can an avid reader ask for than a book about books and taking place at a library?! I was very captivated by both timelines in this historical fiction. The suspense of who the book thieves were kept me coming back again and again. I loved the vivid language of the library! Even though I haven't been there myself, I can almost see if clearly in my mind's eye. The characters were wonderful and the writing was engaging.
Was this review helpful?
This novel is an intriguing historical mystery revolving around the New York Public Library. We follow the Lyons family who lives in the superintendent's apartment inside the library in 1914, and Sadie, who is the curator of a special collection at the library in the early 90s. The storylines of these characters intersect in several interesting ways -- especially those revolving around the theft of priceless library books.

Usually with books with multiple perspectives, I find myself drawn to one character over another, and end up rushing through the parts with the unloved character. The great thing about this book is that both characters are well done, and I didn't find myself as the reader wanting to get back to the other storyline. Fiona Davis made both women have their own issues, flaws, hopes, and dreams.

Parts of the mystery were predictable, but there were elements that were surprising as well.
Was this review helpful?