A story as lively as those stone lions.

THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE

Returning to her trademark depictions of historic Manhattan buildings, Davis has set her latest in the New York Public Library.

The NYPL has a special significance for three generations of the Lyons family, whose surname appears to be a nod to the institution’s sentry lions. In 1913, library superintendent Jack Lyons,  his wife, Laura, and their two children, Pearl and Harry, inhabit seven rooms on the library’s mezzanine. In alternating sections set in 1993, Sadie Donovan, Pearl's daughter, is also a library administrator, curating the Berg Collection of rare books. This collection includes mementos of Laura Lyons, whose reputation as an early feminist essayist is enjoying a resurgence. Shortly before Pearl, who lives with Sadie’s brother, Lonnie, dies at 87, she hints at a long-kept secret concerning Tamerlane, a volume of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry that disappeared from the library on Jack Lyons’ watch. As it happens, this novel is less a paean to architecture than a tale of two book heists, 80 years apart. On the continuum of crime, pilfering books—even invaluable artifacts like a first edition of Leaves of Grass, a page from a Shakespeare First Folio, the last diary Virginia Woolf kept before her suicide, and that priceless edition of Poe—ranks rather low on the thrill-o-meter. So Davis attempts to inject juicier conflicts. Laura’s struggle to get a degree from Columbia's journalism school is doomed to fail thanks to flagrant sexism (though a professor plagiarizes her thesis). Sadie, who's still reeling from a difficult divorce, is a suspect in the book thefts, as was her grandfather, Jack. The tension needle is hardly moved by flat characterizations or improbable plot developments while the writing is strictly functional: long on exposition, short on atmosphere.

A story as lively as those stone lions.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4461-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A heartfelt but schematic wartime tear-jerker.

ETERNAL

Quite a change from Scottoline’s bestselling contemporary thrillers: an ambitious, deeply researched historical account of three Roman families caught in the meltdown of Fascist Italy.

May 1937 finds Alessandro Simone and Marco Terrizzi competing for the favors of Elisabetta D’Orfeo, an aspiring journalist and cat lover who waits tables at Casa Servano, the well-regarded Trastevere restaurant owned by Giuseppina Servano, widely known as Nonna. Since Sandro’s father, Massimo Simone, is a Jewish tax lawyer who strongly supports Mussolini and Marco’s father, Giuseppe Terrizzi, is a former cyclist who proudly styles himself a Fascist of the First Hour, there’s plenty of potential for ethnic, religious, and political conflicts both between and within the leading characters, and despite the widespread conviction that Mussolini’s pre-Hitler brand of fascism will never turn against the Jews, the coming of the war flushes all these conflicts out. After Marco’s brother Aldo is killed when he joins a group of anti-fascist saboteurs, Marco, groomed by Commendatore Romano Buonacorso for a rapid rise to power, begins to have second thoughts. Sandro, his dreams of academic stardom trashed by his religion, is more open in his opposition to Il Duce. The real calamities, however, follow the German invasion of Italy, which kicks off several painful rounds of increasingly severe anti-Jewish legislation, expropriation, extortion, and finally rastrellamento, the wholesale roundup of Italian Jews to be shipped off to destinations readers will know all too well. Through it all, Scottoline struggles mightily to bring her sorely tried characters alive through their love for each other, but they mostly remain pawns of history who believe till the end that “the Vatican will intervene, of course.”

A heartfelt but schematic wartime tear-jerker.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more