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The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Review

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

In 1913, Jack and Laura Lyons have settled into their cozy apartment, nestled deep within the stately New York Public Library. Their children, Harry and Pearl, are their world within the grand library. This is especially true for Laura, who sometimes chafes at the confines of their lives.

Jack, the library superintendent, spends his days keeping the large building running and his nights agonizing over his own book. Laura occupies her free time crafting short pieces for the library newsletter that chronicles their life in the library, but she craves more. She enrolls in a journalism program at Columbia University, giving her a new focus that is outside of the monolith that is the New York Public Library. She wants something all her own that also will give her the means to provide for her family. While her journalistic endeavors grow, life inside the library begins to fray when rare books start disappearing under the Lyonses' watch.

"THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE is a lovely story that brings you in and keeps you there, wondering what will happen not only to the stolen books, but more importantly to our two protagonists."

In 1993, exhibit curator Sadie Donovan is walking past the lions that sit sentinel outside the New York Public Library, once more in awe that she gets paid to spend her days there. She is even more excited by her current work --- assisting in the curation of a new exhibit that will feature unique books and items in the library’s collection. There is one minor problem, though: rare books are disappearing from the library. These are books that Sadie has access to for the exhibit, which makes the administration question her motives. When her family history comes to light --- she is the granddaughter of Laura Lyons and has kept it a secret, not wanting to bring to anyone's attention the book thefts that plagued her family --- she is cast into an unwelcome spotlight.

After the thefts, Laura’s life comes crashing down around her. Knowing that help is not going to come looking for her, she does what is needed for herself and her children --- she builds a new life. Her work and her love life come to fruition, and she begins to reevaluate everything that she always believed about her family and herself. She embraces a bohemian lifestyle and uses her journalistic skills to uplift the voices of the feminist movement.

Sadie, though she admires rare books and has a healthy appreciation for history, hasn't spent any time looking into her family’s past. Her mother, Pearl, hasn't shared much about her parents, and Sadie has never asked. When she begins down that path, she uncovers a family history richer and more diverse than anything she ever imagined. While her grandmother may have been a famous feminist essayist eschewing the confines of her former life, Sadie feels caught in an awkward place between her family’s past and her present situation. Channeling her grandmother’s investigative skills, she sets out to change that with a little detective work of her own.

Who doesn’t love a book about an iconic library and stolen books? Having read Fiona Davis’ previous novel, THE CHELSEA GIRLS, I jumped at the chance to sink my teeth into this one. I appreciate how she builds her characters and their relationships. Laura and Sadie both struggle to fit into a world that feels awkward and somewhat out of touch for them. They find ways to make it work but always want more, and I love how their lives mirror each other 80 years apart.

THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE is a lovely story that brings you in and keeps you there, wondering what will happen not only to the stolen books, but more importantly to our two protagonists. It would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s summer reading list.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on August 7, 2020

The Lions of Fifth Avenue
by Fiona Davis

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 1524744611
  • ISBN-13: 9781524744618