Daily Archives: August 3, 2009

The House on Fortune Street – Book Review

houseonfortunestreetWhat had persuaded her to buy the house, though, were none of these sensible reasons but the thought that sprang into her mind at the first sight of the address – 41 Fortune Street – that her grandfather would have liked the name. “Straight out of Dickens,” she could hear him say, straw hat rocking. The pleasure of that image more than outweighed her own faint twinge of superstition. – from The House on Fortune Street, page 275 –

The House on Fortune Street is a leisurely novel about how our past reflects upon our future, and how our relationships with others are inextricably linked to how we integrate events from our childhood.

The book is broken into four separate parts – each narrated by a different character. Abigail  is an actress and playwright who immerses herself in loveless sex, protecting herself from the intimacy she knows may hurt her. Sean has left his wife and struggles to complete his dissertation on Keats. He moves into the Fortune Street house with Abigail and finds himself regretting his decisions. Dara is Abigail’s best friend from college. Highly sensitive, she works as a counselor and longs to find true love and start a family, but her questions about why her father abandoned his family when she was a young girl overshadow her happiness. Cameron, Dara’s father, is living with a secret and struggling to come to terms with yearnings he is unable to explain.

Early in the novel, a pivotal event occurs … and from this point onward the reader searches for understanding of each character’s motivation, desire, and fears. Livesey has given each character “a literary godparent” – an author who the character relates to and provides further understanding of that character’s personality. For Sean, Keats provides that role; for Abigail it is Charles Dickens; Dara relates to Charlotte Bronte, and the novel Jane Eyre; and Cameron connects with Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll).

“My grandfather thought he could learn everything he needed to know about England by studying Dickens. He said everyone had a book, or a writer, that was the key to their life.” – from The House on Fortune Street, page 258 –

Margot Livesey’s prose is gentle and probing. In The House on Fortune Street she brings her story together with patience, carefully flushing out each character and putting together the pieces of their lives as though constructing a psychological jigsaw puzzle. Thematically she explores the idea of luck or chance vs. choice, and examines the role which early childhood plays in the development of our personalities. Specifically, she gives the reader a glimpse into the complexity of women’s friendships – the intimacy, as well as the secrecy which these types of relationships engender.

I found myself deeply involved in the lives of Livesey’s characters – I grew to care about them, to wonder about their choices, and to sympathize with their struggles. The format of the novel – a series of interlocking narratives – gave depth to the story which might not have happened if told only through the eyes of one character.

The House on Fortune Street is a heartbreaking tale which deals with some uncomfortable subject matter. It is not filled with action, but requires patience and a slow reading to fully appreciate. There are no sudden “aha” moments, but rather a gradual realization and understanding of the underlying message of the novel. At times I wanted to flip ahead to get to the nitty-gritty of the story, but I am glad I restrained myself from doing so as I think I would have been disappointed that there are no easy answers in this book.

Readers who enjoy well-written literary fiction will like Livesey’s style. Written with sensitivity and compassion, The House on Fortune Street is recommended.


Random Reading Challenge: Progress


August 1, 2009 – July 31, 2010

Read details of challenge and sign up here.

Link to reviews of challenge participants here.

I am hosting this challenge and will track my progress on this post, as well as giving you updates on how I chose each book.

I have chosen Level III – read 12 books.


Book 1:

My first random read was selected from a stack of 16 books which I just plucked from my shelves at random (not looking at titles, just grabbing books).

Random.org picked: #14

LOVE MEDICINE by Louise Erdrich – COMPLETED October 23, 2009; rated ; read my review.

Book 2:

My second random read was selected from a stack of 50 books which sit next to my bedside table gathering dust.

Random.org picked: #33

JOE JONES by Anne Lamott

Book 3:

My third random read was selected from the same stack of books as in Book #2.

Random.org picked: #40

THE SPECTATOR BIRD by Wallace Stegner

Book 4:

My fourth random read was selected from a stack of 18 recently purchased books.

Random .org picked #4

by Joyce Carol Oates

Mailbox Monday – August 3, 2009

mailboxMonday1I always enjoy Mondays because of Marcia’s weekly event: Mailbox Mondays. Readers share the books which arrived at their homes over the past week and link their posts to Marcia’s blog. For me, this event has evolved into a way for me to acknowledge those books I receive from authors, publishers and publicists and give my readers a chance to get an early look at some of the newest books.

Here is what arrived at my house this week:


Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow came from Random House through a Shelf Awareness offer. Although I am trying to resist more review book requests, I really wanted to read this one. I have yet to read a Doctorow novel and this one is getting some early raves. From the back of the book: ‘Brilliantly conceived, gorgeously written, this mesmerizing narrative, a free, imaginative rendering of the lives of New York’s fabled Collyer brothers, is a family story with the resonance of myth, an astonishing masterwork unlike any that have come before from this great writer.Homer and Langley is scheduled for release in September. Doctorow is a prolific writer. To see a list of his work with links to reader’s reviews, visit this page on Library Thing.


The Year of The Flood by Margaret Atwood is a book I am VERY excited about. I love Atwood’s work, and so when this book showed up on Shelf Awareness, I just had to request it. Due for release by Nan A. Talese in September, The Year of the Flood is being called “a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her (Atwood’s) visionary power.” To read more about the book, visit Random House’s dedicated page. To learn more about Margaret Atwood and her amazing collection of work, visit the author’s website. This book is going right to the top of my TBR pile, so watch for a review by the end of August!


Bundle of Trouble by Diana Orgain arrived direct to me from the author. This debut novel is the first in a projected series of mysteries dubbed the Maternal Instincts Mysteries. This first novel centers around new mom and sleuth Kate Connolly. Early reviews call Orgain’s novel charming and humorous.  Read an excerpt of the book here. Read more about the book and its sequels on the author’s website. You don’t have to wait to read this one – it will be published by Penguin on August 4th. Watch for the sequels to Bundle of Trouble coming in 2010.

Inherent Vice Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon arrived as a finished hardcover from Penguin. I don’t honestly recall requesting this one – but I may have and just can’t remember. At any rate, it is classified as “part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon.” Set in the 1960s, Inherent Vice introduces Doc Sportello who becomes drawn into  his ex-girlfriend’s plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer. Since I have never read anything by Pynchon, I am looking forward to giving this one a try. Thomas Pynchon is the author of seven other books. There are multiple sites devoted to his work, including this “unauthorized” website which has lots of interesting information about Pynchon’s previous novels.

inhoveringflightIn Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld arrived from Caitlin at Unbridled Books.  This is a special book for me…Read more about it and why I received it on my post In Hovering Flight: Paperback Release.