Friday, August 27, 2021

Book Review: The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Lions of Fifth Avenue
by Fiona Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiona Davis is one of my recent favourite historical authors. So to give her four stars is a bit surprising; but The Lion of Fifth Avenue was just not near as compelling as some of her previous novels. You'd think the setting, of the New York Public Library, would be more than enough to make this perfect; but the reality is quite different. Here we have a historical mystery (as Davis tends to write) where the mystery felt unsolvable as it was so tenuous a connection.

The Mystery
Stole artifacts, including paintings, books, manuscripts, sculptures, etc. are always super intriguing. For one, you have to find a buyer in order to get cash value out of them; and two, you need to know exactly what to take. Not just any old Shakespeare book is going to do. It needs to be a special one, for example: a first edition, hardcover, only 10 in the world left, etc. Knowledge plays a key part in stealing these items. And so I was disappointed to learn who our thief was (both in the present and past), their motivation of the theft was very dull, and the way it was stolen only had a hint of interest for me. Perhaps if there had been more details about each book/piece that was stolen, or even an estimated worth (although arguably priceless artifacts) I would have felt more drawn into the intrigue. All the who, what, where, when, why and how questions of this mystery are wrapped up in the last 25 pages and just stated. The whole core plot lacked a romance that I know Fiona Davis is capable of.

Our leading ladies; one in the past and one in 1993 were equally interesting however. Both had excellent love interests (including one that is lesbian!!) that kept me on the hook wondering how they might resolve the conflicts in their way of each relationship. As per usual these ladies had strong voices and Davis gives each their own way of telling their part of the tale. So that you can't mistake one for the other (even if you miss the chapter heading telling you when you are). I felt both ladies have good introspective moments and each is a much better person as they grow in life and love. It's refreshing to see two women, albeit in two very different times, combat prejudices of being a woman, and be faced with situations similar to ones I've been in professionally in the past.

Women's Rights
I really wanted to know more about what Laura Lyons (our past lady) wrote about women's rights that was so compelling. I know this is a made up character and Davis doesn't want to rewrite history; but some more examples of the types of writing she did near the end of her life would have whet my appetite. Our 1993 lady could have certainly been a little more staunch in her stance as a women. She seems to just fall into a number of the scenarios and promotions; as opposed to really fighting for, and earning, them. There should have been more of a connection here between our two ladies.

The weak mystery outcome and a lack of real connection between our two ladies (past and present) really brought The Lion of Fifth Avenue below the usual standard that Fiona Davis has set for herself. I would still recommend this book but I just can't give it the five stars I did The Address or The Chelsea Girls warranted. Much like Davis' novel, The Masterpiece, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is just missing the special spark that the other novels have. I hope she is able to bring it back in her upcoming novels! Either way I will still continue to read her stories and have them on my print bookshelf (my highest honour) as I do love to read Davis' style, tone and narrative overall.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

I don't think I've read anything by Davis before, but I'll make sure to pick up on of her other books first if I do!