The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
Published July 28th 2020 by Dutton
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I do enjoy Fiona Davis’ historical novels. If you have not read any, you are in for a treat. The setting of each of her books is a famous building, and although not alive, it becomes a character in her story. This one is set in the famous and iconic New York Public Library.
I did not know that there was an apartment in the middle of the library where the Superintendent and his family lived. One timeline, in 1913, takes place in the library and that apartment. The superintendent’s wife, Laura Lyons, is a woman before her time. When she is accepted to the Columbia College of Journalism, she seeks out stories and events that are beyond what is accepted by women at the time. She becomes involved with a group of women, radicals who have opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women’s rights that are not widely accepted. There are thefts occurring at the library and her family is under suspicion. Fast forward to 1993 and we meet Sadie Donovan, who has recently been appointed temporary curator of the famous Berg Collection. They are setting up for an exhibit when several pieces are stolen. It sounds like deja vu and the problem is that Sadie is the granddaughter of the famous essayist, Laura Lyons who was suspected of thievery 80 years earlier.
I really liked both protagonists. Laura and Sadie are intelligent women, but Sadie is not as strong as Laura was. The themes in the story of women’s oppression in 1913 are integrated well into the story of the thefts at the library and Laura’s family life. Laura had a fight on her hands to be able to write and editorialize the same as the men. The women she met introduced her to the indifference of men to women’s health and the mortality of children that were easily remedied if they had cared. Same sex relationships and the stigma was also introduced in the book. In 1993, Sadie deals with self-esteem issues. She is worried that she will not measure up to the men at the library even though she is more than qualified, an issue that is ongoing in many professions today. There is also a bit of a romance, but that does not in anyway overshadow the mystery of the old and ongoing thefts. I enjoyed this story and I know my review does not do it justice. If you enjoy a good historical fiction story, one with two timelines, strong female characters, a mystery, and an amazing setting, then you will enjoy The Lions of Fifth Avenue. I was gifted a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.
About the Book (From Goodreads): 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 finds herself 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.