Fiona Davis has carved an interesting niche in female-focused historical fiction by picking New York buildings and constructing rich, compelling stories around them. They are mostly fictional in the broad strokes, but she weaves fascinating tidbits of the past into the details that not only ground the storytelling in specific historical eras, but also remind us that many of those details have been buried in the sands of time—especially the ones that men didn’t find important, or didn’t want remembered. She does a great job of digging them up again, and blowing off the dust and cobwebs, to shine a little light on their fascinating facets.
Her latest, THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE, revolves around the iconic New York Public Library, and it touches on the radical ideas New York women were discussing as they laid the essential foundations for movements that would truly take hold in the generations to come, when women in ever-increasing numbers would fight for social, political and financial access and freedom.
Against this backdrop is a mystery of books stolen from the library that begins in the early 1900s and echoes into the mid-1990s, with unexpected connections and consequences that can both heal and harm a family eight decades later.
It’s a great read and a good reminder that though we still have work to do, we women have come a long way, baby!
THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE
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.
(This review is part of Read-A-Romance Month. Hope you’ll come back every day to check out my book recommendations. You can find the calendar here. Also check out The Romance of Reading, a Facebook “book club” where we’ll have great authors guest hosting every week.)
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