THE HOUSE AT THE END OF HOPE STREET
By: Menna van Praag
The house on Hope Street in Cambridge, England, is a magical house where women have gone for centuries. They go there to escape, for advice and to find hope for their future. Of those who have stayed in the house, you will find many well-known literary figures who continue to offer advice through their portraits. You see, this isn’t an ordinary house, it is a magical house. One that the average person can’t see. Just those who need the house. In this story, Alba, Greer, and Carmen come for healing and hopefully, new beginnings. Through their story, those of many others will also be told.
What initially drew me to this novel was the cover. I love the colors and the whimsical feel it gave to the story. But, I wasn’t sure I was going to fall in love with the idea of talking portraits, a house no one but the residents could see, and long-dead ghosts talking to the living. Even though this isn’t usually my type of book, I was quickly drawn in to the characters and their struggles that brought them to the house in the first place.
The author is very careful in her storytelling, not giving too much away too early, so that you are eager to keep reading and find out what is going to happen next. Alba, Greer, and Carmen all have different “ghosts” to heal and each one is revealed in their own way and their own time. Peggy, the landlord, is the one who continues to encourage the women in their stay at the house. After just 99 days, the women must leave – forcing them to focus on planning their next step rather than hiding out in their room. Even though Peggy has lived in the house for years, she too must come to grips with her own past and how to move forward.
My favorite lesson from the book came from the portrait of Daphne du Maurier, the author of the famous novel, REBECCA. Her lesson to Alba was quite fitting for all of us:
” There is no going back in life. No return. No second chance. When you waste your days, they are wasted forever. So be honest about the things you really want, and do them, no matter how fearful you might be.” Page 90
There are many issues in this book that would make it an excellent book club choice and there are questions available as well. Some of the topics that you could discuss include family relationships, domestic violence, love, mental illness, forgiveness, and magic.
Aside from the magic of the house, Alba also has special abilities that include seeing colors that express the true emotions of those who she is interacting with. This was also very interesting and gave me a new perspective into how I express myself with my body language and imagining the colors that would be floating around me.
Even though this book is magical, there is very much that is real. The emotions and problems the women in the story are facing, the lessons given and received, and the loved that is shared will all stir up your own feelings of anger, sadness, and hope. After reading this book, you may even wish you had a House on Hope Street in your neighborhood that you could run to. But, even if you don’t, remember that what ever it is that you think is the worst that could ever happen, you may just find it was the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Menna van Praag, author of The House at the End of Hope Street, is a freelance writer, journalist and Oxford graduate. She is also the author of Men, Money and Chocolate, an international success, already translated into twenty-six languages. She lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and son.
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