Wednesday, May 07, 2014

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



The house sitting at the end of Hope Street is invisible to most. But if you're a woman in crisis who needs some help with life, it's perfectly real and available. Kind of like a super girly version of the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter (as my husband pointed out). 

Alba Ashby is in hot water after being kicked out of her MPhil program in history. Greer is an aging actress who can't catch a break. Carmen is running from the memory of an abusive husband. They all find themselves seeking shelter on Hope Street with the lovely, motherly Peggy, a geriatric spitfire and steward of the house. The magical house. The one that provides for the women giving them a library full of books, a new wardrobe, a grand piano or whatever it might take to help them find their inspiration, their confidence, and their way. It's also been a safe haven for scads of famous and influential women: Florence Nightingale, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, to name a few. Their photos grace the walls and help dole out advice to the residents. There's a ghost in the kitchen. Magic around every turn.

If magic is not your thing, keep on truckin'. If you enjoy the work of Sarah Addison Allen (who is blurbed on the cover), this book will probably tickle your fancy. 

I went into this one CERTAIN that I would love it! And while I did enjoy parts of it, others were a little too cutesy or plodding for me. I am generally annoyed at shifting narrative perspectives, and such was the case here. While Greer, Carmen and Peggy were suitable peripheral characters, I wanted more of the focus to be on Alba. 

Alba is bookish, she's lovable, and young and confused. She comes from one heck of a screwed up aristocratic background, and she has lots of issues to work out. Alba would've been enough for me without the plights of the other women. The book felt a little too "crowded" at times. 

This novel is only 300 pages, and while I expected to whip through it in a day or two, it actually took me a week to complete. Either I wasn't in the mood, or I didn't love this book. I suspect the latter, but it's hard to admit that since I wanted to love it so stinkin' much! All the elements sound like things I would totally enjoy, but at the end of the day I found that the book could've been edited down to fewer characters. This would've also allowed some of the stronger conflicts to be explored more fully. 

While there were quite a few things I had quibbles with, the book did finish strong, and it left me with a smile on my face. I think it's a perfect choice if you're into this magical-realist genre and especially if you need something to bust a slump. 

Pub. Date: April 2013
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN:  067078463X 
Source: Won from my wonderful friend, Bellezza






21 comments:

  1. Hmm...I need something to bust a slump.... You have tempted me with that one line. Also, I need a house like that.

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    1. I'll send it to you if you want it!

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  2. I'm so sad you didn't love this one as much as you had hoped! Perhaps it's because I'm completely new to the Magical Realism genre, but I loved this one. Loved it to the point where, two months after reading it, I'm still talking about it and (forcefully!) recommending it to everyone.

    I'm in total agreement with your husband. The entire time I was reading I couldn't help but think of the talking portraits in HP.

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    1. Me too! I'm so glad you loved it, Leah. I kept reading and thinking, "I SHOULD LOVE THIS WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??!!!" Weird.

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  3. I keep singing, "just bust a slump!" to the tune of "just bust a move!" There's your ear worm of the day!

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    1. LOL, thank you very much, Amanda. #songisstuck

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  4. Hmm...I've been wanting to read this, but the cutesy side of it has put me off for a while. I think I'll just have to consider myself pre-warned and adjust my expectations!

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    1. And I hope you totally love it, but I wish I'd gone into it with fewer expectations. Blargh.

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  5. This looks like an interesting read. Alba does sound like the most interesting character to me.

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  6. I love the premise so much that it's worth reading. I will definitely keep my expectations down though.

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  7. I've been a curious gal about this book for a while. It's on my Kindle. I think? Ha, I can't keep track. Anyway, I don't like when there are toooooo many things going on in a book so I hope I like this when I get to it.

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  8. I agree that it's a great slump-buster. Just a nice, enjoyable story. Sorry it wasn't as great as you expected, though. Btw, I LOVE the left side of the image up there (the part that says an estellasrevenge review etc....). Pretty!

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  9. I've had my eye on this one for a while... Would you say this is more or less cutesy than SAA? I dig the idea of a girly Room of Requirement, but there are limits to my tolerance for magic...

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  10. Hmmm. This one sounds appealing but I'll pass.

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  11. I have been curious about this book for a while and although I don't normally like reading the magic realism genre, I'll probably still give this book a try. I'll be sure not to have too high expectations! I'm glad that you found at least some parts enjoyable.

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  12. This does sound like a goodie, but I could see how too many perspectives would bog it down...

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  13. I've had this one on my radar, but I haven't bought it yet. While I don't read many books like this, I'm intrigued by the premise of this one. Cutesy worries me though.

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  14. My favorite character here was the house, but I also loved the old woman (here insert how I'm feeling lately ;) who put cream on everything.

    The part I didn't like was the ending, not that she didn't find herself, I guess I was just disappointed with her orientation. But, I'm trying not to be too judgemental.

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  15. I love SAA and the idea of seeing the Room of Requirement idea reinvented. I'm not sure if the things that bothered you would bother me or not, but I think I'd like to give this a try :)

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  16. I really loved this book. I read it at the perfect time (it was a slump-buster) and it was the perfect balance of fun and content. I’m glad you liked it, even if you had a few quibbles!

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  17. I added this to my TBR list after hearing about it on Bellezza's blog. It's too bad it didn't live up to your expectations, but I totally get it about too many characters crowding the narrative. I've had that feeling while reading books about groups of women traveling together, creating a book club together, etc. While I enjoy each character's perspective, it's a little clumsy trying to keep track of who's who. But with that said, I still plan to give this a read. The house sounds intriguing!

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