Thursday, 10 April 2014

The House at the end of Hope Street

The House at the end of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
Published by Penguin Books (USA)
25th March 2014
Paperback Edition



Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years.  It's larger than all the others, with turrets and chinmeys rising into the sky.  The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees.  At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears to be enchanted.  As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.

The house is built in red brick, the color of rust, and of Alba Ashby's coat - a rare splash of brightness in a wardrobe of black clothes.  Alba doesn't know what she's doing, standing on the doorstep, staring at the number eleven nailed to the silver door.  She's lived in Cambridge for four of her nineteen years, but has never been down this street before.  And there is no reason for her to be here now, except that she has nowhere else to go.

In the silence Alba's thoughts, the ones she's been trying to escape on her midnight walks through town, begin to circle, gathering force in her mind, ready to whip themselves into a hurricane.  How did this happen?  How could this happen to me?  She's always been so careful, never inviting any drama or disaster, living like a very sensible seventy-nine-year-old: in a tiny box with a tight lid.


Currently this book is an American edition, but I'm hoping that someone will publish it over here as this is a beautiful read.  Alba Ashby is the daughter of a deceased Lord, with a crazy mother and rejected by her siblings.  She is also highly intelligent, and studying at Cambridge University but has unfortunately fallen in love with her professor.  Peggy lives at number 11 Hope Street, one in a long-line of women destined to be the custodian of the house, only this year is to be her last, and she needs to find a replacement.  Add to this mix, the exotic Carmen, and failed actress Greer, and you have all you need for a brilliant story.

Oh, but hang on a moment, I forgot to mention that the house is haunted.  Not in a bad way, but magically, by all the women who have ever stayed there before.  You can wake up and meet Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in the hallway, chat to Sylvia Plath in the bathroom, eat alongside Agatha Christie in the kitchen, whilst Florence Nightingale paces the downstairs hallway.  In the forbidden room you can find both Beatrix Potter and Virginia Woolf!

The House at the end of Hope Street is a tale of four different women who are each looking for the right path to take.  Each one of them has a story to tell, and a reason for running away.  The house will allow them to stay for 99 days before they need to leave, in that time it will provide them with all the clues they will need to move forward with their lives.

This is a lovely read, no violence or bad language, just a beautiful story-line, filled with some of the many women who have made a name for themselves at being the best in their chosen careers.  The House at the end of Hope Street is one I think many of us would long to visit.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x


  1. So no chance I can order this one from the Library ;0)
    It sounds like a really relaxing holiday read.

  2. Not the library, but Amazon! X


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