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Book Review: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

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The House at the End of Hope Street is literally a magical book, like a modern-day fairy tale for grown women. It is beautifully written and an empowering story of women caring for each other in the present and across time, and an enchanted house that cares for all of them.

Alba is near the end of hope after a lonely childhood full of secrets and a disastrous first experience of “love,” when she discovers a house in Cambridge that she had not seen before. The house turns out to be magical.

It is filled with photos of women, some famous and some not, who have stayed at the house in times past. There are suffragettes like Emily Pankhurst, novelists like Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie and Sylvia Plath, performers like Vivian Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. All of these photographs are capable of talking among themselves and to the inhabitants of the house and passing along their words of wisdom.

Then there’s Peggy, who is the house “mother” and caretaker. The house, too, is alive and capable of giving the women who stay there support and everything they need to fix what is broken in them. But each woman has only 99 days before she must leave. Usually the women find what they need, but there have been a few tragic exceptions, like Plath.

As Alba and the two other women staying at the house, Greer and Carmen, face their overwhelming problems and begin to mend, the reader is immersed in the story in the best possible kind of way. The characters, both living and dead, are rich and the house is delightful. The stories are fascinating. The combination of women’s history and fantasy is charming.

The mystery at the core of Alba’s life would make a great story by itself as one secret unravels after the other, and so would those of her housemates, but as part of the whole they are even better than they would be alone.

It is really hard to imagine a better-written first novel than this one. It would make a lovely gift for any woman who loves magical fantasy. Everyone deserves a good fairy tale once in a while, and this is a near-perfect one. You will feel refreshed and, indeed, full of hope after visiting The House at the End of Hope Street.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.