So I’ve stepped away from my August TBR pile a little bit (because I was reading way more than I thought I would – yay!) and picked up a book I’ve had on my shelves for a while. I bought this book on a bit of a whim whilst searching through Amazon, and the premise drew me in. It sounded interesting, hinted at strong female characters and a little bit of magic realism. What more could you possibly want?!
Spoiler Free Review
Title: The House at the End of Hope Street
Author: Menna van Praag
Published: A B Books in 2015.
Alba Ashby finds herself standing in front of a house she cannot remember ever seeing before. That is because this house, the House at the end of Hope Street, only reveals itself to those who truly need it. And Alba needs it now more than ever. As she steps inside the house and meets its current inhabitants – motherly landlord Peggy, seductive and secretive Carmen, and lost, hurting Greer, she finds herself on a journey of self discovery and second chances – with a little bit of help from the house and all its magic.
As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t plan to pick up this book. I just stumbled upon it. It sounded ‘strange but good’ – which is what I think of a lot of books I pick up on a whim – and I was curious. I love a bit of magic realism, a little bit of ‘what is really going on there?’, so I was instantly drawn to this novel. By the end of reading, I was so pleased about my spur of the moment decision.
If you enjoy reading about real women – women who are strong, and weak, and hearty, and heartbroken, and lost, and found, and all the things women can be! – you will enjoy this book. I found it so uplifting to hear about these characters, to see their struggle and then their strength, and to see them working together to achieve goals and overcome personal obstacles – it was just brilliant! I really felt for these characters and wanted them to succeed and find a sense of peace as all of them at some point are feeling lost and never knowing what they truly want. This is a theme anyone can relate to, and I could see parts of myself in some of these wonderful women.
Although the book focusses around Alba, you hear from three other perspectives which were just as interesting. I was interested in all of their stories (which is something quite rare for me, as I often favourite one narrative and then wish to skip through the rest until I get back to the one I’m favouring again – bad, I know). Additionally, the men they come across in their lives are told of too, and they are given their due and are allowed to tell their stories. I found myself feeling for some of them too; however, it is clear from the first pages that this novel is about the women in this story and as such, the men take somewhat a back seat.
The House itself is like its own character in this novel. It breathes, speaks and reveals things to its inhabitants when they need them, and helps those characters on their journey of self-healing. I adored this setting – I loved hearing from the past inhabitants of the house through the photographs on the walls, and felt this added to the mysterious and magical quality this book had.
This novel, however, does not only deal in sweetness and light – it has some dark themes which are explored and handled gently by the author. It was quite a dark read at times – some of the secondary characters admitted to doing things that left me, as the reader, stunned. It heightened my experience of the novel – I always feel you know it’s a good book if you feel things as deeply as the characters are on the page. But overall, despite hearing of the heartbreak, loss and emotional turmoil the characters have to go through, there is an overwhelming sense of hope. Hope that things will get better for all of them.
Finally, I wanted to mention the little bits at the back of the book which added to the experience of reading for me: the historical women’s list and the colour index. It was great to hear about the backgrounds of the women from the photographs and I was glad to be reminded of how much women of the past have helped create our society today.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars! (4 on Goodreads – why no half star ratings, huh, Goodreads?!)
I was, once again, close to giving this the full 5 stars, but I think I’m still having a book hangover from My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises… Still such an uplifting and empowering read – one I couldn’t put down! I’ll definitely be purchasing more of this author in the future.
Have you read this book – what did you think? Have you read any of her other works? Any other magic realism recommendations?