Title: The House at the End of Hope Street
Author: Menna van Praag
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Released: April 4, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)
Synopsis: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 Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, 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.
Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, but this book pushed me out of my comfort zone just a bit. As I read the first chapter or so, I thought it might be too new age/psychic/fantasy/ghost story for me. There were also indications that made me think it was going to be completely predictable. I was thrilled, and pleasantly surprised, to be proven wrong.
The book’s voice is simple in all the good ways, even gentle at times. It was easy to get lost in the enchanted world van Praag has created. I love the stunning way Alba’s synesthesia is described; it definitely added to the magic.
Some aspects I didn’t like as much:
- I felt that an important detail about the character Albert Mackay was revealed far too early. I wanted a little more time to wonder about him.
- One relationship in the book seemed to progress so quickly, almost out of the blue. This made it hard for me to take the characters’ feelings seriously.
- A few times I couldn’t tell what time I was reading: present, past, reliving a memory, or what. I found these shifts to be too subtle.
However, these were all minor issues for me in comparison to how lovely and sweet I found the story overall. This is an easy, relaxing read. Not in a frivolous way – there are certainly some difficult situations the characters have to deal with – but the tone stayed light and enjoyable throughout.
At the end of the book is “A Guide to the Women of Hope Street” with a very brief biography of the literary and historical figures in the book, as well as a chart notating the meaning associated with each color Alba sees.
I’ve always enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen’s novels; that recommendation in the synopsis is spot on. Menna van Praag’s The House at the End of Hope Street is a delightful story.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.