Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, but this book pushed me out of my comfort zone just a bit. As I read the first chapter or so, I thought it might be too new age/psychic/fantasy/ghost story for me. There were also indications that made me think it was going to be completely predictable. I was thrilled, and pleasantly surprised, to be proven wrong.
The book's voice is simple in all the good ways, even gentle at times. It was easy to get lost in the enchanted world van Praag has created. I love the stunning way Alba's synesthesia is described; it definitely added to the magic.
Some aspects I didn't like as much:
- I felt that an important detail about the character Albert Mackay was revealed far too early. I wanted a little more time to wonder about him.
- One relationship in the book seemed to progress so quickly, almost out of the blue. This made it hard for me to take the characters' feelings seriously.
- A few times I couldn't tell what time I was reading: present, past, reliving a memory, or what. I found these shifts to be too subtle.
However, these were all minor issues for me in comparison to how lovely and sweet I found the story overall. This is an easy, relaxing read. Not in a frivolous way - there are certainly some difficult situations the characters have to deal with - but the tone stayed light and enjoyable throughout.
At the end of the book is "A Guide to the Women of Hope Street" with a very brief biography of the literary and historical figures in the book, as well as a chart notating the meaning associated with each color Alba sees.
I've always enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen's novels; that recommendation in the synopsis is spot on. Menna van Praag's The House at the End of Hope Street is a delightful story.
NOTE: I would give this closer to 3 1/2 stars if Goodreads allowed for 1/2 star ratings.