I love books that have a little bit of that magical flair. More than a little bit and I feel as if I’ve hit the reading jack pot. The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag is full of magic, from a house that seems to pop up just as you need it, ghosts and portraits that give, sometimes unwanted, advice, and a 99 day chance for a young woman to get her life back on track, this novel keeps the reader enchanted.
When Alba, an extraordinary genius with unbelievable sight, experiences the worst event of her life (she’s not exaggerating either), she wanders the streets with no idea what should happen next. That’s when the house pops up out of nowhere, big and Victorian with vines of wisteria and the smells of calm hovering in the air, and reaches to her like a mother reaches for a hurting child. As you read on, you learn that the house has been rescuing women, especially soon to be famous women like Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf, for 200 years.
Alba’s story quickly becomes entwined with the three other women in the house, one hiding from her past, one scared of her future, and the wonderful woman, Peggy, who keeps the house and helps the young women who cross the threshold. One of my favorite parts of this book was the way that the characters stories became so connected. Originally, I was concerned that this was going to be a story of stories, instead of a fluid whole, but Van Praag didn’t disappoint.
Even though the pages are full of heartbreaking life events, you learn, along with the women experiencing them, that one “must be allowed to feel her grief, must dive headlong into despair, before she can emerge again, her spirit richer and deeper than before” (46). While trying to find herself in all of the madness of her life, Alba is also on the search, rather reluctantly sometimes, for her father, who makes the story even more rich.
Although I loved the book, the characters, the story, the mysteries that unravel one tiny strand at a time, I didn’t love the number of perspectives that the story was told from. Almost every character gets his or her say, which made me feel like my favorites didn’t get enough time with the spotlight. I also had a hard time, whether because of the different circumstances or perspective, relating with Greer, one of the women living in the house.
I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I think it was exactly the book that I needed to read! Follow the link and get your own copy! You won’t be disappointed.