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 finds herself 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.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible.com) (AbeBooks)
The Lions of Fifth Avenue has been on my radar for a long time, and I recently read The Magnolia Palace by #FionaDavis and enjoyed it so much I knew I had to move this book higher on my TBR pile. It was worth reading, although it wasn’t as fantastic as I’d hoped.
Normally, I like dual timelines if they’re done well, and for the most part, I find that the case with The Lions of Fifth Avenue. The 1914 storyline was well-researched and portrayed what it must have been like to be a feminist in a time when women were struggling to earn the right to vote. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Laura Lyons and her ambitions to make something of herself beyond wife and mother. I felt her pain when she was rejected by the Columbia School of Journalism over her thesis, simply because she expressed her opinion, while male students could do so without repercussions.
There’s a mystery in both timelines involving rare books going missing from New York Public Library, which is the setting for both timelines. The mystery of what happened to the books kept me reading, even though I thought the 1993 timeline was rather weak compared to the 1914 one. The solution to the mysteries of the missing books was a little predictable, but still enjoyable to read.
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