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
Source: Won from my wonderful friend, Bellezza!