This week I read The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. It is the first of two books that I will read that begin with the letter "H" (not including words like "the").
Initially I had trouble finding a book that began with "H," and ended up searching on the library's computer system for key words. One of the words was "hope" and this is the book that showed up in the search results.
This book is about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need. For decades, this house has had some kind of magical abilities and heals the women who show up on the door step. Each woman is given the opportunity to stay no more or less than 100 days. Many successful women such as Agatha Christie, Florence Nightingale, and Virginia Wolfe have been guests there and they talk from the pictures of themselves on the walls.
Alba, one of the residents and the main character of the story, has left her academic career and now is need of something that is missing in her life. As she walks through Cambridge, England, she finds herself in front of a house that she's never seen before (11 Hope Street).
She approaches the house and an older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has 99 nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.
Eventually, Alba discovers that the house is highly unusual. Some of the notable past guests - including Beatrix Potter - continue to live at the home, except they are talking portraits on the wall. Others are ghosts and appear to those who need them the most. The walls, lighting system, stairs, and floor all seem to "come alive" in response to individual guests and milestones in their lives.
The longer that Alba lives in the home, the longer she is able to continue on a journey that is both healing and life-saving.
Despite enjoying this book, the plot developed rather slowly, and I found sections of it confusing. There were constant changes in the points of view and between characters. It became increasingly difficult to keep track of the many characters.
I found the inclusion of and focus on positive female role models and leaders to be inspiring and interesting. Most of the women featured in the book were ones I had studied in college, while other ones were new to me. All of them led full lives that have made a positive impact on women throughout history.
I would recommend this book, especially to women who are going through challenging times in their lives and who need a book filled with hope and inspiration.