Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

Title:  The House at the End of Hope Street
Author: Menna van Praag
Publisher:  Published March 25 2014 by Penguin Books
ASIN: 9780143124948
Pages:  320 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: magical realism, female empowerment
Find it at Goodreads


A magical debut about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need.
Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she's never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house's usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in. 
She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers--literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds--and maybe even save her life.
Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, "The House at the End of Hope Street" is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen.

Our thoughts:

We love the genre of magical realism, particularly the work of Sarah Addison Allen, so when we saw the description for this book we knew we just had to read it. This is an enchanting and delightful tale of three women who have lost their way and the magical house that helps to set each of them back on their proper path in life.

Almost everyone can relate to the desire, at one time or another, to simply run away, escape from one’s life for a time, gain some perspective and rediscover the true wishes of one’s heart. The House at the End of Hope Street and its caretaker, Peggy, provide the haven that allows our main characters to do exactly that. The House has served this same purpose for countless women over nearly 200 years, and in fact, can only be found by women in need or those whom the House has beckoned or invited. Once the women arrive, each reeling from her own traumatic experience, they are allowed to stay for a period of just ninety-nine days in which to turn their lives around. 

 “No rent, no bills. Your room will be your own to do with as you like. But take care of the house, and it’ll take care of you.”

And, indeed, during their stay on Hope Street, the House, Peggy, the many famous former inhabitants (in the form of framed photographs that can talk and interact), as well as a ghost or two, all help to guide and enlighten these women as they struggle to heal their souls and regain their direction.

The House is a character unto itself, and the star of the book, with walls that breathe, notes that float from the ceilings, bedrooms that magically fill with the things its inhabitants cherish most, subtle (and not so subtle!) clunks and creaks and flickers of lights, all of which make the occupants well aware of its wishes and opinions, while also providing each of them with exactly what they need to move forward with their lives.

 “This house may not give you what you want, but it will give you what you need.”

Peggy has the gift of extraordinary insight, and she serves as a compassionate mother figure that imparts important life lessons as she gently helps her guests to find their way. And to her surprise, she even discovers that the House has a thing or two left to teach her as well. 

 “We all have to make choices, since we can’t have two lives, only one. But, most of those choices we make fresh every day, not just once. So, if you regret something, if you want to change your mind, you usually can.”

Although the characters are not particularly multi-dimensional and the tale is a bit predictable, the writing here is absolutely beautiful! The author creates amazingly vivid mental images with her lyrical prose, and it is such a joy to read that it helps the reader to overlook any minor flaws in the story. The plot drags somewhat, especially toward the middle of the book, and the multiple and overly frequent changes in point of view can be quite hard to follow at times.

All in all, however, this is an engaging and enjoyable read that will wash over you and warm your heart with its gorgeous writing, whimsical magic, and insightful pearls of wisdom. Pick it up the next time you are looking for a light and lovely read!

Our Rating

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