Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Laura Lyons is a housewife in 1913 living with her family in an apartment in the New York Public Library where her husband is the superintendent. She enrolls in Columbia Journalism School and finds a new world outside of the library walls and herself where women have their own identity. When someone starts stealing rare books and her lifestyle is at risk, she has to make a choice.
Eighty years later, Laura’s granddaughter, Sadie, is hired as a curator at the New York Public Library. When rare books from an exhibit Sadie is setting up starts to go missing, Sadie starts to dig into the past and may not like what she finds.
Readers of my blog will know that I love historical fiction. I fully expected to be fangirling in this review when starting the book. The mystery, varied timelines, New York Public Library tie-in, sounds fascinating on paper. The paper on which it is fascinating is not the pages of this book. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is not the worst book I’ve ever read. It felt self-indulgent on the part of the author. Davis wanted this setting and timeline tie but the story and characters never really seemed to come together. This is the only book I’ve read by Fiona Davis so the rest of her books might be brilliant. Am I likely to find out? No.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue has a very interesting premise in that the story follows two women of the same family in different time periods. Laura reads very much like a March sister (Little Women) in characterization and thought. She is a women who feels that she’s on the precipice of something great and is hesitant. She is living a life personally and professionally that people expected her to live but has a natural ambition. Laura is starting to explore and expand her world post motherhood as women of the time wouldn’t have done without great risk. Sadie, her granddaughter, is perhaps overly confident. There were far reaches in the plotline and a lot of suspension of disbelief required that I just wasn’t up to while reading.
As two books in one, both books in The Lions of Fifth Avenue get off to extremely slow starts. There is so much presented that doesn’t really matter in the scope of the story and rather than working as an enhancement to the narrative, the overworking slows it down. I did appreciate the historical aspects. I did a bit of an online dive into the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection. You may wonder, as I did, why Lions is spelled as it is in the title when the character’s last name is “Lyons.” The title refers to the Lions on the steps of the New York Public Library which, in many ways, is the book’s most interesting character.
I’m not going to spoil the story if you intend to read The Lions of Fifth Avenue. I will say that there are a lot of things that feel like filler. Threads that go nowhere. There is a relationship in the earlier storyline that could have been quite interesting but feels forced and as though it was added as an after thought. The final climax is very convenient and feels really hurried and not really thought out. Had the focus of the filler been put on the things that were undeveloped, The Lions of Fifth Avenue would have been a much better read.
My Grandma always said, “If everyone says they like you, someone is lying.” I’m not going to like everything. My dad loves James Patterson’s books and I’m just not into them. Do I think that the Kindle edition of The Lions of Fifth Avenue is worth your hard earned $15.67? That’s up to you but were it me, I’d wait for a sale. If you do read it, let me know what you think.
Read an excerpt and buy The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis on