Fiona Davis’ newest entry in her historical fiction collection contains her traditional writing techniques; namely dual timelines and the themes of women’s rights and their struggles to obtain equal status to men. Her choice of New York venue for this outing is the iconic New York Public Library. Even if you haven’t visited the NYPL, we all know the iconic building at first sight with a pair of stone lions flanking the stairs at the entrance; and who doesn’t remember Carrie’s almost wedding to Big, held at the library in the first Sex and the City movie???
At the beginning of the 1914 storyline, we are introduced to Laura and Jack and their two children, Harry and Pearl. Jack was hired to be the library superintendent and the family resides in an apartment in the library. There are detailed descriptions of certain parts of the library such as the rare book room and the residence, however, I found myself wanting more description of the public areas. I had high hopes for great descriptions of the library which the public can access, but I found that the most descriptive passages were areas which are hidden to the public.
The book’s second timeline in 1993 features Sadie, Pearl’s daughter, who also works at the library. The theme that ties these two storylines together is the theft of several rare books that occur under Jack’s watch and then again under Sadie’s decades later.
In the end, Davis has provided us with a solid historical fiction novel, but personally, I was a bit disappointed and don’t feel that it compares to her previous work, The Masterpiece. I had a difficult time connecting with these characters in comparison to her other works.
Thank you to the publishers – Dutton (Penguin Group) and to Netgalley for providing this book to me in exchange for an honest review. The publication date for this book is August 4, 2020.