Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that have been waiting on the ‘to be read’ pile for however long, and are finally getting an airing.
This week’s choice is an audiobook I listened to back in 2016. The House on Hope Street is a contemporary fiction story with a touch of magic.
Alba Ashby, a nineteen year old Cambridge student, is devastated and her world shattered, after she experiences the worst possible event of her life, both professionally and personally. As she wanders aimlessly through the streets of Cambridge she finds herself at the door of number 11 Hope Street and feels inexplicably drawn to the house. She is invited in by Peggy Abbot, the ‘oldest and most beautiful woman’ Alba has ever seen.
Alba knows immediately this house is different and special. She is able to see things most people do not – auras, ghosts and she can see scents and sounds manifest as vivid and intense colours. The walls of the house are covered in photographs of famous historical and literary figures who have stayed at the house at one time or another during the last two hundred years. As she and Peggy sit in the kitchen with mugs of hot chocolate, Alba is encouraged to stay for the allotted ninety-nine nights, after which she must leave.
‘Well, I …’ A thousand questions crowd Alba’s mind, so she asks the first one that comes to her lips. ‘But why ninety-nine nights?’
‘Ah, yes,’ Peggy says. ‘Well, because it’s long enough to help you turn your life around and short enough so you can’t put it off forever.’
‘Oh,’ Alba says, thinking it’ll be impossible to pick up the pieces of her shattered life in such a tiny amount of time, let alone get everything back on track.
After Peggy explains how the house will help her and promises it will give her what she needs, although not necessarily what she wants, Alba stays. And with her two housemates, Greer and Carmen, who have also experienced terrible events which changed their lives, feel the house and it’s ghostly occupants working their magic and offering advice. Even Peggy who has been at the house for most of her life, has changes to make in order to move forward.
The escapism of the book and the idea of a magical house like this that offers hope, care and encouragement is lovely. The storyline builds slowly but steadily, fleshing out the diverse and quirky collection of inhabitants of the house as it goes. Each of them have their problems and damaged emotions and as their stories unfold the characters come to life and begin to heal, find out who they really are and what will make their lives happy and complete.
I did find the narrative a little confusing at times, changing point of view often and slipping into the past now and again, but maybe that was because I was listening rather than having the book in front of me. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Sastre did a very good job with the narration.
About the Book
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.