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House at the End of Hope Street, The Paperback – 23 Apr 2015
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'engaging, uplifting new novel' Nudge Books 'An enchanting, magical read; evocative, wise and beautiful' The Bookbag
About the Author
Menna van Praag was born in Cambridge, England and studied Modern History at Oxford University. Many of her set among the colleges, cafes and bookshops of Cambridge.
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But I do have just a wee gripe - the book is quintessentially English, with English heroines and an English narrative, written by an author born in Cambridge, so why oh why do jarring 'Americansims' creep in? Like flashlight for torch, 'checks' for £10000 and - gasp! worst of all! - Daphne du Maurrier entreating the heroine to 'listen up'. It may seem petty to many people, but for me it really intrudes in the flow of the book, and a truly good read should be seamless, so that's a star deducted, sorry!
Having said that, I will be reading more of this author's work!
Having said that - I adored the idea of the house, and anyone who has been through tough times will identify with that longing for a safe haven, just for a short while, whilst you gather your wits and get your feet under you. I liked the portraits of the famous, reminding us that we're all fallible and prone to fortune's slings and arrows. The whole book is suffused with a wishful charm which carries the story a long way.
However, I do feel that there should have been a good dose of vinegar to counteract all the sweetness. It's hinted at - in the residents that the house couldn't help - but, especially towards the end, all difficulties start being skated over. There's a huge missed opportunity with one character's brush with the law - which is portrayed as exactly that - a brush - when it would have been much more serious - and it renders this character a bit of a caricature when she could have been so much more.
I'd still recommend this book for all it's good points. But, if you're over 35 or have had a lot of life experience, you might find yourself ultimately a bit frustrated at how simply everyone gets what they want. It ends up as a modern cup-cake of a book with a big swirl of bright icing and sugar sprinkles - feel-good and therapeutic but not the stuff of life.
I actually think the characters in the book could have done with a single volume each to make it a series, which would have allowed for full exploration of themselves and the house. Nevertheless it's a lovely story and I would definitely like to live in the house itself.