House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

Cover

The  House at the End
of Hope Street
by Menna Van Praag
Publisher:  Pamela Dorman Books
| Viking
Published:  April 4, 2013
Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)
Source: NetGalley.com

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.

My Thoughts:

An upfront confession:  I requested this book from NetGalley.com because of the enchanting cover art. Sometimes the cover will draw me in before anything else clicks about a book.

The House at the End of Hope Street, described as “Literature/Fiction (Adult),” seemed more  fantasy as I started to read.  Another confession I must share is that fantasy is completely outside my reading box. But I persevered, and soon I fell in love with this writer’s style and the characters who are so vivid and alive.  Well, some of them are alive.

Alba Ashby, an odd little character for a variety of reasons, is at the bleakest point in a life filled with disappointments and a rather unlovable family.  Alba has abandoned her degree at Cambridge and comes upon the house while walking down Hope Street.  Suddenly, she notices a house she’s never seen before.  That’s because this house is only visible to those who need it.

As the door opens to Alba, she is greeted by Peggy, the current landlady, who inherited the house and the role of the house’s keeper as the next in line in the Abbott family.  Soon, Alba meets other residents, Carmen and Greer, whose lives seems as bleak as hers. Each woman has a special need, but can’t seem to see how to help herself.  And they have only 99 nights at the house.

The house is as alive as its current inhabitants.  Its walls expand and contract as the house breathes, and lampshades bow to the women as they pass by.  Amazingly, the house senses the women’s needs and leaves notes of encouragement for them.

Alba is cast in the role of primary character and the story focuses on this young women who is brilliant and has the ability to see smells and colors.  Additionally, Alba is an avid reader and fascinated to learn that some very famous women writers have also been at the house:  Edna Ferber, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Agatha Christie, just to mention a few.  Their portraits hang in the hallway and as time passes by, these women engage in conversation with Alba trying to help her see she can improve her situation.

The more I read this book the more I didn’t want it to end.  Van Praag uses a strong literary fiction style, and the writer’s description of the house and its characteristics made me want to live there, especially if it would be possible to talk with all those wonderful women who have gone before me as writers.

Additionally, the characters are so realistic I came to feel as if they were friends or acquaintances.  The realities of their lives despite being painful led to a universal theme of working toward solutions to problems which seem insurmountable, while receiving hope and encouragement from people who care what happens to you.

I highly recommend this book.  I will read it again and again.  It will stay in my Kindle library forever!

* * *

Meet the Author:

AuthorMenna van Praag was born in Cambridge, England and studied Modern History at Oxford University. Her first novella – an autobiographical tale about a waitress who aspires to be a writer – Men, Money & Chocolate has been translated into 26 languages. Her first work of literary fiction, The House at the End of Hope Street, was inspired by an idea the author had to set up a house for female artists to give them a year to fulfil their artistic ambitions. Her next novel, The Little Dress Shop of Dreams, is set on the magical street of All Saints Passage where a scientist falls in love with a mysterious man who has a magical voice. All Menna van Praag’s novels, excepting Happier Than She’s Ever Been, are set among the colleges, cafes and bookshops of Cambridge, England.

(Image and bio from Goodreads.com)

* * *

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

NetGalley_Logo

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Next up:  A review of a handy writer’s resource, The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

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11 thoughts on “House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

  1. Allison @ The Book Wheel June 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm Reply

    I know that you know this, but I LOVED this book! Rebecca and Mel definitely need to pick it up because it’s amazing.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer June 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm Reply

      Amazing is so true of this enchanting book! I loved it too, and I hope Rebecca and Mel pick it up soon. Would love to know their thoughts on it. 🙂

      Like

  2. Melinda June 20, 2013 at 3:44 am Reply

    I like the cover of the book and wanted to request it but I forgot! I am glad you liked it.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer June 20, 2013 at 9:34 am Reply

      Glad my review helped jog your memory about this book. I think you’ll enjoy it. BTW, I dropped in at your blog this morning — lovely. I’ve added you to my list of book bloggers I’m following.

      Like

  3. Sherrey Meyer June 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm Reply

    Rebecca, having read many of your reviews, I think you’ll enjoy this one. If not, I owe you one, whatever that might cybernetically be!

    Like

  4. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book June 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm Reply

    Good to know! I’m also not a fantasy fan, but it won you over, so it’s worth a try, right? 🙂

    The cover is just so beautiful. . .

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    Like

  5. tpolen June 18, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply

    I’ve been lured in by a cover more than once – sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised and sometimes ask myself what I was thinking! Glad this one surprised you!

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer June 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm Reply

      Oh, yes, many a cover has teased me into buying a book and then all falls flat. But not this time!

      Like

  6. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader June 18, 2013 at 7:25 am Reply

    I’m so glad you’ve reviewed this. I remember hearing about it a while back and then totally forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. I’m off to put it on my wishlist right this minute 🙂 Lovely review.

    Like

    • Sherrey Meyer June 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm Reply

      Great, Jen! I think you’re going to love it. Once you’re into it the entire cast of characters come so alive, including the house, that you almost feel as if you’re living right there.

      Like

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