I am behind on blog posts by 4 books! And I feel compelled to go in order since I am chronicling my reading journey this year. So.. the next book I read was The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag. I discovered this author last year when I read The Dress Shop of Dreams, and I have to say that that book is absolutely tops in my estimation. I loved it. It had so many little magical elements that I wouldn’t want to spoil for anyone, but… magical dresses. Need I say more? Maybe I will reread that book this year so that I can write about it here.
I thoroughly enjoyed The House at the End of Hope Street too. This one is more about the magical power of books, and it does have a fashion element too through one of the characters with a seemingly magical wardrobe. Clothes are important in the story and descriptions of clothes are plentiful and I always love that.
The house in question only appears to women who are absolutely desperate and at the end of their ropes. It gives them shelter for 99 days so they can get back on track. The house is filled with photos of all of the women who’ve ever stayed there, many of them famous authors. Real-life tidbits about the lives of many famous female authors are very cleverly woven into the tale, and their wisdom and life lessons permeate the book. If you love books and reading, you will love this book in particular.
There are two women staying at the house already when Alba shows up at the beginning of the novel, and the book follows all of them and also Peggy, the proprietress of the house who is older and very wise but facing troubles of her own. One thing I loved about this book as wells at The Dress Shop of Dreams is that the older characters also have their joys and sorrows as well as their chances for love and they are rendered as full characters and not just standbys to the younger characters like in so many other stories.
One quote I loved (I am removing the male character’s name so as not to spoil any plot for anyone):
After he’s gone, Greer sits for a long time. She rests her head on her knees and weeps- not because she loved… and not because she’s lost him. But because she didn’t take care of herself. She knew his nature the moment she met him, just as she knew the philandering fiancé. She knew them and she knew herself… she knows she cannot blame these men for her messy life; they only did what she always knew they would do. No, this was not about crushed hopes and broken dreams. This is about trusting her own heart. Hope doesn’t even enter into it.
I guess I related to that since I also find trusting my own heart to be a difficult thing to learn how to do.
Another thing I absolutely loved about this book, besides the stories and the characters and everything, was all the references to other books and authors and now my To Read dream list has grown even larger!