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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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

Hardcover304 pages
Publisher Pamela Dorman Books

From Goodreads: 

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.

My Thoughts:

There is a house in Cambridge, England, which appears to women who need a place of refuge when they discover themselves to be at crossroads in life.  Whether due to circumstances, a life event, or because the world around them isn't ready for their brilliance, these women need a safe place to get themselves together, and decide what path through life they should take.  These women need to recognize what is in their best interests, with a little help from the afterlife.  That's when the house on Hope Street appears to them.

When Alba experiences the worst event of her life, that's when the house appears and welcomes her with open arms.  There she finds the care taker, Peggy, and two other women in residence who also need the house's hospitality and wisdom, Carmen and Greer.  Each of these women must decide what to do next in their life, and also discover what will make them be true to themselves.  Who they really are.  The house helps with that, first by comforting them, then by offering them hints or suggestions of what they should do.  The house provides these women and those who have lived their in the past the love and support they need to get back on their feet.

The walls of the house are covered with photos of everyone who has ever stayed there, and many of them are famous: Agatha Christie, Vivian Leigh, Liz Taylor, Sylvia Plath.  They offer advice to Alba and they are all very funny.  The author has a little bio of each historical woman who is featured in the story, in the back of the book.  Back to Alba, she is so young and inexperienced with repeat to life, that she can't handle what is happening to her now.  She has family, but they are not supportive of her, and we learn all about that aspect too.  What a shame!  I won't give it away, but it explains a lot of how Alba grew up to be the way she is.  Besides the fact that Alba is brilliant, I think she has a photographic memory, but she also experiences things in color.  Alba has synesthesia; words and emotions are in color to her.  This was never fully explained or named, but a character in another book had this condition so I knew what it was.

Anyway, Alba is the main character in the book, but there are also two other women staying in the house, as well as the house mum.  All of these women have issues they need to work out, and the house helps them.  Filling their rooms with what makes them happy, like books, dropping helpful hints or quotes from the sky, and generally pushing them to explore themselves and come to the right decision.  And don't forget the photos of previous women who have stayed on Hope street who offer unsolicited advice.  They help too.  Everyone in the story eventually finds their path and the House at the End of Hope Street succeeds yet again.

Sorry if this review is all over the place, but there are so many wonderful aspects of this story and I  just loved it!  There wasn't one thing, truly, that I didn't like.  Not one character past or present that wasn't interesting and add something to the story.  The House at the End of Hope Street is a hopeful book that will you leave in a happy and loving place.  This one will be staying on my shelves because I can totally see myself re-reading it again.

Thanks to FSB Associates for my review copy.

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