By Fiona Davis
Rating: 5/5 Stairs
Which begins like this:
She had to tell Jack.
He wouldn’t be pleased.
As Laura Lyons returned from running errands, turning over in her head 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 Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
This is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Davis. After looking into some of her other books, it seems that she likes to write historical fiction that is centered around a building in New York City. (And after reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue, I’m really excited to read her other books!) I added this book to my “to read” list purely from the look of the cover, and was both surprised and delighted when I realized that this particular story centers around the main branch of the New York Public Library.
The book begins in 1913, and we realize that the Lyons family LIVES in the library. (Of course this took me down a HUGE rabbit hole on the internet when I looked into this and discovered, this is in fact true. Families did live in the branches of the NYPL. So. Cool. And a sidenote – I love that Ms. Davis took stories from the family who lived in this library and incorporated them into her story, like the son using books as bases to play baseball after hours.)
I don’t want to say too much about the story; I really enjoyed not knowing anything going into it. The book alternates between Laura Lyons in 1913 and Sadie Donovan in 1993. Sadie is a librarian at the NYPL, and is busy getting ready for a big exhibit that will hopefully attract donors attention. When items from her exhibit begin to go missing, Sadie thinks there might be a connection to the past. I loved the way Ms. Davis wove the tales of the two women together. While there is a mystery to solve with the rare books going missing, the bulk of this story features two strong, independent women who both are working to find their place in the world. And the library was the perfect setting.