Monday, April 14, 2014

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

In this hopeful novel, several women at wit's end finds themselves on an unknown doorstep and at the start of a mystical journey to find a better future.

The house itself is magic (in a Mary Poppins kind of way), and accepts entry by women with no other options. Over time, nearly every woman of note in science, literature, and politics has paid a short stay at the house, and the haunted pictures on all the walls prove it. Along with the house's custodian (an 82-year-old woman with her own secret dilemma), the historical women from the pictures offer advice and wisdom to the current inhabitants: a defeated and grief-stricken college student, an aging and lovelorn actress, and a spicy Portuguese singer with a dark secret.

The storyline moves quickly, rotating between the four women's stories but also providing perspective from other characters. The action takes place over just three months, but sometimes the story takes a hop of a week or more to pull the narrative forward. I really enjoyed this novel, and it held some fun, pleasant surprises for me. It's a lighthearted book that's encouraging and bright without becoming saccharine.

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