Sunday, May 5, 2013

The House at the End of Hope Street (Menna van Praag)

The House at the End of Hope Street is Menna van Praag's glorious novel about a magical home and its inhabitants.  It's the type of book that comforts you like a bowl of chicken soup and just makes you feel better about yourself in times of trouble.  With a who's who of historical figures and unforgettable modern-day characters, The House at the End of Hope Street is a beautiful literary work.

Alba perceives her life as being in ruins, having just had her academic reputation stolen from her.  Her beloved mother has just taken her own life, and her siblings do not seem to care one iota for her.  One day, she shows up at a house where people she's never met have been waiting for her.  This is a house for people in despair who are learning to pick up the pieces of their lives again, and the caretaker, Peggy, says that Alba is welcome to stay for ninety-nine nights.  Pictures of past residents on the wall, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Sylvia Plath, communicate with both the main characters and each other, which just goes to show that every single one of us has needed a "time out" at some point.

This book is a delightfully written fable about what life truly means, and when Peggy has her "a-ha!" moment towards the end, I had a light bulb go off in my own head.  You'll come to know these characters well, anxiously awaiting their fates, and seeing a little part of yourself in all of them.