Review: Lions of Fifth Avenue


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

Ever since I read Robert K. Massie’s account of researching the court of Nicholas and Alexandra and reading the memoirs he found in the main reading room of the New York Public Library’s research library on 5th Avenue, I’ve wanted to go there. As a student, I loved hiding away in the stacks, not to study, but to discover new books. Indiana University’s main library–now the Herman B. Wells Library, has 10 accessible floors on the graduate side and 1 additional floor accessible by stairs. I knew them all. As a librarian, I never had the ambition to work in pubic libraries–though I did for a few months. The library with those fabled lions out front is not your average public library. This is a closed-stacks research institution with a rare book collection, incredibly knowledgable staff, and much, much, more.


Reading room of the NY Public Library on 5th Avenue

The Story

The story is told in two time frames: 1914 and 1993. Grandmother Laura and granddaughter Sadie are both involved with the great NYPL on 5th Avenue. The story shifts back and forth between the two eras, but the story in both is about the theft of rare books and the possible relationship of the family to the thefts.

While granddaughter Sadie has the job of head of the Berg Collection–the rare books collection, dropped into her lap, she has never disclosed her relationship to the long-ago Supervisor of the building–her grandfather, Jack. Her grandmother Laura went on to become a well-known feminist, ahead of her time in just about every way until a bomb took her life in the London Blitz in World War II. Can interest in her grandmother be a help to Laura’s career? Or a major hindrance? Was a member of her family involved in the theft of books as rare as Poe’s Tamerlane?

My Thoughts

Oh, how I LOVED the idea of that apartment within the great library building! Creepy? Sure at night, I bet it was a horror movie of sounds and imaginary movement. But, gosh what an amazing address, right?

I cannot say that I fell in love with anyone in this book. If I felt for anyone it was Jack–the husband. He had every reason to feel trampled by his wife and her ambition. I did not warm to fellow [fictional[ librarian Sadie either. She just wasn’t very likable.

Davis’ writing and storytelling were fine. Her characters just weren’t people I could invest in. Overall, this book was a major disappointment. It just did not hold my attention. I wanted to love it, but it was pretty “meh” to me.

My Rating



Fiona Davis discusses the book at the NYPL



Between The Lions–a fun tribute to the iconic lions from PBS that encouraged reading.



8 thoughts on “Review: Lions of Fifth Avenue

  1. I love the cover and idea of this library! Also enjoyed your reflections on the IU library; I had forgotten the floor only accessible by steps. I spent many hours there too, although in my case it was either studying or avoiding a roommate 🙂 Bummer that this didn’t turn out to be a more compelling read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry to hear it was just “meh”. I love the idea of it, but I’ve never read any of her books, and I;m not sure now that I’d want to start with this one.


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