When Alba Ashby, the youngest Ph.D. student at Cambridge University, suffers the Worst Event of Her Life, she finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street. There, a beautiful older woman named Peggy invites Alba to stay on the house’s unusual conditions: she’ll have ninety-nine nights, and no more, to turn her life around. Once inside, Alba discovers that 11 Hope Street is no ordinary house. Past residents include Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and Agatha Christie, who all stayed there at hopeless times in their lives and who still hang around—quite literally—in talking portraits on the walls. With their help Alba begins to piece her life back together and embarks on a journey that may save her life.
Filled with a colorful, unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a wholly imaginative novel of feminine wisdom and second chances, with just the right dash of magic.
The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag is a fabulous book. As whimsical as it is quirky, it pulled me into its pages and made me feel I, myself, was a resident of 11 Hope Street. In fact, I think I’d like to move in – even if only for 99 days…
The characters in the book are an intriguing mix, mostly women, with a couple men peppered throughout. Alba, Greer, and Carmen are all there for different reasons and I loved watching their stories unfold. Other ‘characters’ who made appearances were famous women from history, writers, singers, actors (Vivien Leigh!!). They were wonderful additions to the story and spoke to residents of the house through their portraits. Did I mention there was a ghost? Just writing this review makes me want to read it again already.
I don’t always save quotes when I’m reading a book, but I made a point to write down two while reading this one –
“Peggy sticks her fork into a half-eaten slice of cake. ‘I love chocolate cake for breakfast,’ Peggy stalls, ‘it sets me up for the day. A little decadence is good for the soul.'”
“She loves books more than life and, for that very reason, she never tried to write anything of her own. Who was she, after all, to think that she could create something brilliant and beautiful, something that wouldn’t simply be a waste of the paper it was written on?”
I loved every aspect of this book. Menna van Praag is a wonderful talent and I will gladly read anything she writes forevermore. It was a delight to read from beginning to end which is probably why I read it in one sitting. I only wish that I could read it for the very first time again.
For extra reading, check out this great Book Club Kit.
Many thanks to Annie at Penguin for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
The publisher has graciously allowed me to give away one copy of this book to a very lucky reader of my blog. It’s open to Canada and the US. In the comments below, leave your name and email address, along with which famous woman from history you’d like to talk to if you were a resident of 11 Hope Street. Extra points for saying what kind of advice you think she’d give you. Contest ends on May 12, 2014. Good luck!