Bibliophiles rejoice: The Lions of Fifth Avenue A Novel by Fiona Davis
Fiona Davis has written a number of historical fiction titles. Each book is set in an iconic NYC landmark and has a dual narrative structure and timeline. In this, the strongest of her novels yet, the reader spends time at the main New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.
The story in the past begins around 1913. The iconic library has just opened. The superintendent, Jack; his wife, Laura; and their two children, Pearl and Harry actually live in an apartment inside the enormous new library. Jack, in addition to his job, is writing what he hopes will be the great American novel. Laura, up until now, a woman who married for love and cares for her family wants more. She enrolls as one of very few women at the Columbia School of Journalism. Jack and Laura’s desire for fulfillment leads to conflict, misunderstandings and tragedy. The fallout from their actions influences the story that takes place in the 1990s which is about their descendants.
In the present, Sadie works as a curator at the very same library on 42nd Street. Her love of all things bookish is apparent. Under Sadie’s watch, volumes are being stolen from the library. How do the past and present collide? Read the book to find out.
I learned a lot about collectable and antiquarian books as well as the library through reading this novel. I now know more about valuable books and how they are both vulnerable and protected. Clearly Ms. Davis has been meticulous in her research and loves her subject.
There are themes to this novel in addition to the mystery, romance and depictions of life at the Columbia School of Journalism, the Village and the library. What sacrifices are women asked to make and when are they too much? How much is owed to a family? Can we be forgiven for mistakes? How important is it to have a relationship and to take risks for it? Who should define what a person wants in life?
Ms. Davis does an excellent job of connecting the two narratives. The book is a page turner that will be eagerly embraced by her loyal readers and will also be enjoyed by those new to the author.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title in exchange for an honest review. I recommend it very highly.