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The Lions of Fifth Avenue
Cover of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
The Lions of Fifth Avenue
A Novel
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A Good Morning America Book Club Pick and national bestseller! "A page-turner for booklovers everywhere! . . . A story of family ties, their lost dreams, and the redemption that comes from...
A Good Morning America Book Club Pick and national bestseller! "A page-turner for booklovers everywhere! . . . A story of family ties, their lost dreams, and the redemption that comes from...
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Description-

  • A Good Morning America Book Club Pick and national bestseller!

    "A page-turner for booklovers everywhere! . . . A story of family ties, their lost dreams, and the redemption that comes from discovering truth."—Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
    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.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One

    New York City, 1913

    She had to tell Jack.

    He wouldn't be pleased.

    As Laura Lyons returned from running errands, turning over in her head the various reactions her husband might have to her news, she spotted the beggar perched once again on the first tier of the granite steps that led to her home: seven rooms buried deep inside the palatial New York Public Library. This time, the beggar woman's appearance elicited not pity but a primal fear. It was certainly some kind of ominous sign, one that made Laura's heart beat faster. A woman on the verge of ruin, alone and without any resources. Unloved.

    The beggar's black mourning gown was more tattered than it had been last week, fraying at the sleeves and hem, and her face shone with summer sweat. Every few days for the past month, she'd taken up a spot off to one side of the grand entryway under one of the towering stone lions, one of which had been named Leo Astor and the other Leo Lenox, after two of the library's founders, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Laura's children had admired them right off, with Harry claiming Lenox as his pet and Pearl doing the same for Astor, neither caring that the sculptures had initially been mocked in the newspapers as a cross between a dachshund and a rabbit. Only last week, Laura had just barely prevented her son from carving his initials into the sinewy rump of Leo Lenox.

    The beggar woman shifted, finding what shade she could. The miserable-looking child who typically filled her lap was missing. Laura wondered where he was.

    "Money or food, please, miss. Either will do."

    Laura reached into her shopping basket and pulled out two apples. One of the library's employees would shoo the beggar away soon enough, and she was glad to have caught her in time, even if the act of offering the poor woman assistance was inspired, at least in part, by a ridiculous, superstitious bargain that existed only in Laura's mind. As if extending a kindness to someone in need would smooth the conversation ahead.

    "Thank you, miss." The woman tucked the fruit away in her pockets. "God bless."

    Laura hurried up the steps and into Astor Hall, past the dozens of visitors milling about, their voices echoing off the marble steps, the marble floors, the marble walls. Even the decorative bases for the bronze candelabras were made from Carrara stone sliced from the Apuan Alps. The choice kept the building cool on steamy September days like this one, even if in winter it was like walking into an icebox, particularly in the evenings when the library was closed and the furnaces only lightly fed.

    She turned left down the grand South-North Gallery, passing under a series of globed pendants of thick, curved glass that broke up the long lines of the coffered ceiling. About halfway down the hallway, she took a right, then another, before climbing up a narrow set of stairs that led to the mezzanine-level apartment where her family had lived for the past two years.

    Their seven private rooms formed a right angle that hugged a corner of one of the library's two inner courtyards, the bedrooms and Jack's study along one side, and the kitchen, dining room, and sitting room along the other. The open area that formed the crux of the right angle, and where the stairway emerged, had become the kids' playroom, where Harry laid out his train tracks in one corner and Pearl parked her doll's pram under the door of the dumbwaiter. When they first moved in, Jack had had to give them a stern warning when they were caught poking their heads inside the dark shaft, but soon enough the family had settled in and adjusted to their new...

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2020

    This latest from Davis, who's had four consecutive LibraryReads picks, opens in the early 1900s with the enterprising wife of the NYPL superintendent involved in everything from Greenwich Village's new bohemia to the fight for suffrage. But she's especially worried about book thefts from the library that decades later impact her granddaughter.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2020
    Returning to her trademark depictions of historic Manhattan buildings, Davis has set her latest in the New York Public Library. The NYPL has a special significance for three generations of the Lyons family, whose surname appears to be a nod to the institution's sentry lions. In 1913, library superintendent Jack Lyons, his wife, Laura, and their two children, Pearl and Harry, inhabit seven rooms on the library's mezzanine. In alternating sections set in 1993, Sadie Donovan, Pearl's daughter, is also a library administrator, curating the Berg Collection of rare books. This collection includes mementos of Laura Lyons, whose reputation as an early feminist essayist is enjoying a resurgence. Shortly before Pearl, who lives with Sadie's brother, Lonnie, dies at 87, she hints at a long-kept secret concerning Tamerlane, a volume of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry that disappeared from the library on Jack Lyons' watch. As it happens, this novel is less a paean to architecture than a tale of two book heists, 80 years apart. On the continuum of crime, pilfering books--even invaluable artifacts like a first edition of Leaves of Grass, a page from a Shakespeare First Folio, the last diary Virginia Woolf kept before her suicide, and that priceless edition of Poe--ranks rather low on the thrill-o-meter. So Davis attempts to inject juicier conflicts. Laura's struggle to get a degree from Columbia's journalism school is doomed to fail thanks to flagrant sexism (though a professor plagiarizes her thesis). Sadie, who's still reeling from a difficult divorce, is a suspect in the book thefts, as was her grandfather, Jack. The tension needle is hardly moved by flat characterizations or improbable plot developments while the writing is strictly functional: long on exposition, short on atmosphere. A story as lively as those stone lions.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 18, 2020
    Davis (The Address) delves into the history of the New York Public Library in this delightful mystery. It’s 1913, and Jack and Laura Lyons have spent the past two years living in an apartment on a mezzanine tucked inside the library, since it opened. Jack is the library’s superintendent, while Laura raises their two children and studies journalism at Columbia. Tension builds when valuable first edition books start disappearing and Jack is the suspected thief. Davis then shifts to 1993, when Laura’s granddaughter Sadie is the library’s rare books curator, and a new wave of thefts begin. As the story transitions between Sadie and Laura, their differences stand out: Sadie is a quirky book lover who’s uneasy around people, while Laura blooms when she meets the revolutionary women of Greenwich Village, who fight for rights in a club called Heterodoxy. Laura’s journalism professor dismisses the club for “trying too hard to be intellectual,” prompting Laura to prove him wrong. Eventually she goes on to become a leading feminist essayist. Davis illuminates the world of special books through keen descriptions of the library and rare book dealers, while leading readers through the twin mysteries of the missing books. The characters and story are stellar, but the real star of the show is the library, which Davis evokes beautifully.

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2020
    The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street has captivated tourists, scholars, and employees alike for more than a century. For Laura Lyons, the library superintendent's wife, moving into the library's private residence in 1913 was an opportunity for her family to experience one of the most priceless pieces of Manhattan real estate. Eighty years later, Laura's granddaughter Sadie lands a big promotion as curator of the library's highly esteemed Berg Collection of rare books. Tasked with finding pieces to showcase the library's early years for a new exhibit, Sadie jumps at the opportunity to dive into her grandmother's history. But when Sadie's research materials begin to go missing, her career and the reputation of the Berg Collection are in danger. Davis' (The Chelsea Girls, 2019) latest NYC-set historical novel is grounded in researched detail, transporting readers between the 1910s and the 1990s. Bibliophiles and fans of Naomi Wood and Paula McLain will especially enjoy this glimpse inside the history of the institution and the tireless dedication of those who serve it.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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Fiona Davis
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