Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


The Lions of Fifth Avenue

by Fiona Davis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5504434,396 (3.72)33
Recently added byunsaltysaltines, libasst, private library, Arina7000, JoeB1934

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
The Lyons family lives in a small apartment inside the NY Public Library where Jack is the superintendent while he writes a novel. Laura finds herself wanting more out of life than just taking care of her family and enrolls in journalism classes. Pursuing one of her stories, she meets Amelia Potter who introduces her to a group of Bohemians focused on various aspects of social justice.

Fast foward 80 years, and Laura's granddaughter, Sadie, is the curator for the Berg Collection which houses some of the few artifacts left by her grandmother.

In both time frames, someone is stealing valuable books. As Sadie investigates, she also learns more about her grandmother and the tragedy surrounding Laura Lyons success.
  4leschats | Jan 5, 2022 |
Fiona Davis specializes in setting stories in well-known building in New York City. First she profiled the Barbizon Hotel for Women in The Dollhouse. Her second book, The Address, was set at the Dakota, that residence made famous by the place where John Lennon and Yoko Ono were living when Lennon was assassinated. Since then she has also set books in Grand Central Station and The Chelsea Hotel. With this book she structures a story about a family that lived in the New York Public Library and takes us behind the scenes of the bookstacks and reading rooms.

When the Fifth Avenue location for the New York Public Library was built there was an apartment built so that the superintendant could live in the building. In 1911 Laura Lyons left the countryside sixty miles north of the city and moved into that apartment when her husband became the superintendant. For their children it meant being quiet when the library was open and not having ready access to the outdoors. The daughter, Pearl, seemed to adapt to the changed circumstances but for Harry,aged 9 and less socially adept than his younger sister, it was a difficult time. In addition to his duties as the superintendant, Jack Lyons was writing a novel which took up much of his free time. That left Laura with not much time to herself once she provided meals, cleaned the apartment and spent time with the children. All that changed in 1913 when she was accepted into the School of Journalism at Columbia University. With her mother to take up the slack and a scholarship for the first term, Laura was able to enter the school. Although the few women students were relegated to covering "women's issues" while the men covered politics and crime and "important stories" Laura managed to find subjects for her articles that interested her. When she met a woman that she knew at college who was now a public health doctor she got introduced to the members of the Heterodoxy Club. Dr. Amelia Potter treated the poor children and reduced infant mortality. She was also a lesbian and lived with another woman. Initially Laura was shocked by this but as she continued to meet Amelia and the other women of the Heterodoxy Club she became aware she was attracted to Amela.Meanwhile, at the library, a number of books have disappeared. As a solely reference library, none of the books are supposed to leave the library. Somehow rare books are being stolen from the cage where they are kept and suspicion has fallen on Mr. and Mrs. Lyons.
Eighty years later, Laura's great grand-daughter, Sadie Donovan, has the job of her dreams and the Fifth Avenue Library. Initially a reference librarian she was promoted to working for the Berg Collection. This collection contains not just books but articles used by prominent writers. Laura Lyons walking stick has a spot in the collection. Sadie has never told anyone at the library of her connection to Laura but it is a source of secret satisfaction to her. Divorced and childless she exists for her job, her niece, Valentina, and the wide range of music she can experience in NYC. When one of the books in the collection goes missing and can't be found she is concerned and upset. A detective brought in to investigate, Nick Adriano, enlists her help but also views her as a possible thief. Sadie has to clear her name and, if she can, figure out how the thefts are taking place. As she investigates she learns about the thefts during her great-grandparents tenure and wonders if they are connected.

I read this book in just a couple of days as I was so anxious to find out who was the thief (in both timelines) and how they carried out their crimes. I was also interested in the characters of both Laura and Sadie and Laura's timeline was very interesting as it was the beginning of the women's movement. Additionally, the setting of a library was just perfect for my inner bookworm. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 29, 2021 |
Dual timeline. New York Public Library. Family lives in apartment inside library in 1913. Original works disappear. Sadie is a librarian there in 1993 a granddaughter of the original librarian. She discovers some unhappy truths about her family. This story kept me reading but it was somewhat contrived. I liked the location and the early feminism insights. ( )
  bereanna | Nov 27, 2021 |
This book has everything I look for in a work of fiction: library-centered, well-paced plotting, interesting characters. Not that the story is perfect: I do think the husband of the central character was handled poorly. First, if the boy was in sight as they chased him down the hall, it is impossible that he could get to the apartment with sufficient time to completely immolate a pile of papers. Moreover, even if the revised version was destroyed, he retained the original with notes so it would have been fairly easy to type out another copy. And the son's descent into a life of petty boy-gang crime like something out of Oliver Twist seems most unlikely. Plus, even if Harry had told the thief about how to enter the book cage, it is extremely unlikely that that design flaw would still exist seventy years later.

Still, on the whole this is a marvelously crafted narrative. I'm not usually a fan of telling a tale from two different timelines or points of view, but it seems to work in this instance. ( )
  dono421846 | Sep 14, 2021 |
I could write a whole blog post about how much I love libraries, and all the ways libraries have been great friends all my life. But this is a book review, so I’ll just say that library love was the main reason I picked up The Lions of Fifth Avenue (2020) by Fiona Davis. And just like the actual libraries, this book did not disappoint me.

The first magical thing to know is that part of the premise is absolutely true: From 1910 to 1940, the superintendent of the New York Public Library’s newly built Fifth Avenue main building lived with his family inside the library in a seven-room apartment. Can you imagine?! Of course, his job to keep the library’s technical systems and physical plant running was a 24/7 job, so I’m sure it was not nearly as glamorous as it seems from this distance. On the other hand, what fun for his children, one of whom went on to be the library’s chief engineer, though he did not live inside the library as an adult.

But now I’ve gotten totally off track, which is just what happens when a book captures your imagination so thoroughly. The family in Davis’ book, Jack and Laura Lyons and their children, Harry and Pearl, bear little or no resemblance to the true story that inspired the novel. Our story opens in 1913, shortly after Jack and his family move into the brand-new library. While Jack is handy with tools and knows a lot about keeping the library running, his not-so-secret ambition is to be a writer and have his own books catalogued and shelved inside his new home. Laura wants to do whatever she can to help him realize his dreams. She presses Jack to let her attend Columbia University to earn a journalism degree that can help her get a job so Jack can write full-time. Gender attitudes being what they were at the time, Jack is dubious about this plan but gives his tentative approval. Laura hadn’t counted on all the new people and experiences to which she would be exposed at university, and she finds herself changing in profound ways that affect her family.

That storyline alone would have been enough to keep me interested, but Davis also works in a contemporary timeline, featuring Jack and Laura’s granddaughter Sadie. Sadie never met her grandparents and her mother refused to talk about growing up in the library, but Sadie has nevertheless found her own employment at the NYPL, as the curator of a special collection. As she helps to plan a fundraising gala to spotlight the collection, a series of events bears an uncanny resemblance to things that happened while her grandparents lived in the library. But can she figure out the connections in time to save the reputation of her family — and herself?

The dual timelines aren’t hard to keep straight, and I found myself almost equally interested in both (with a slight preference for Jack and Laura in the 1910s). But they come together in a satisfying ending that neatly wraps up pretty much every dangling storyline. I think lovers of libraries and historical fiction will find a lot to like here. ( )
  rosalita | Sep 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For librarians everywhere
First words
She had to tell Jack.
She supposed a death in the family did that, made you dredge up the silt from the bottom of your life.
Her future was in her hands, a book yet to be written. How she chose to fill its pages was entirely up to her.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (3.72)
1 1
2 13
2.5 4
3 26
3.5 24
4 56
4.5 7
5 26

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 166,001,604 books! | Top bar: Always visible