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Winner Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2008
Shortlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2009, 2010
Longlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2011 Shortlisted Best Written Book Blog - 2010

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.

4Stars

19 Comments

  1. August 3, 2009    

    This sounds wonderful – like reading about people who you hope to be friends with. I love those characters.

  2. August 3, 2009    

    This sounds like a lovely book for a quiet time. Thanks for the review.

  3. August 3, 2009    

    I thought this book was so good. I loved her writing!

  4. August 3, 2009    

    This has been on my list. I was so happy to read this great review; thanks so much

  5. August 3, 2009    

    Brilliant review!!! I loved how you wrote it … enough so that I will be adding your blog to my regular reading list. It is always a treat to read a well-done review. : )

    And I’ve been meaning to stop by and sign up for your Random Reading Challenge and then you visited so that was neat. I’ll be signing up some time this week — I have lots of books I need to “get read” and this should help me do it.

  6. August 3, 2009    

    Sounds like a great novel! The characters sound really interesting.

  7. August 3, 2009    

    Sheila: It is a good group of characters 🙂

    Kathy: It is a very “quiet” read…but I was in the mood for that kind of book.

    Julie: This was my first book by Livesey – I’ll definitely pick up another book by her sometime.

    Diane: You’re welcome – Hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Jenners: Thank you! And glad you’ll be back again…and joining the Random Reading Challenge too 🙂 Hope you’ll find it fun!

    Tricia: The characters are quite complex…which I like in a novel.

  8. August 3, 2009    

    I picked this book up on a whim while in a bookstore last week (at O’Hare Airport, of all places). I’m not sure when I’ll get to it, but I’m glad to see how much you liked it!

  9. August 3, 2009    

    This sounds exactly my sort of book. I love books where houses play a central part and I love the idea of a literary godparent. Who, I wonder, would I claim as mine?

  10. August 4, 2009    

    wow, I loved this review. I really need to get this book…writers and books that are akin to the characters, etc.

  11. August 4, 2009    

    Hahaha, every successive thing you said about this book attracted me more and more. Love the excerpt, loooove multiple povs, and I really like the idea of the “literary godparents”. Great review!

  12. August 4, 2009    

    I’ve never heard of this book but it sounds really interesting! Thanks for the review!

  13. August 5, 2009    

    Your wonderful review has made me want to read this one!! Thank you

  14. August 5, 2009    

    Sounds like a good one. You’ve made me curious.

  15. August 5, 2009    

    Florinda: I’ll look forward to seeing what you think of it once you get around to reading it 🙂

    Anne: I was wondering about my own literary godparent too! Having read your thoughts on books for awhile now, I think this is a book you would appreciate.

    Serena: *nods* This is one of those books which is all about character.

    Jenny: LOL – looks like you have no choice then but to buy it and read it!!

    Swapna: You’re welcome – another one for the wish list 😉

    Staci: Oh good – I love to enable other readers!!

    Anna: I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of it if you ever read it!

  16. August 6, 2009    

    This sounds good! Thanks for the review!

  17. August 10, 2009    

    You’re welcome, Rebecca!

  18. Linda Sheehan Linda Sheehan
    September 3, 2009    

    I had the pleasure of seeing Margot at a reading years ago & have a signed copy of Eva Moves the Furniture…..she is a delightful woman as well as being a wonderful author. She is like your neighbor, if you know what I mean. Will definitely pick this one up. Linda/CT

  19. September 9, 2009    

    Cool, Linda…you seem to get to meet a lot of authors…I’m envious!!

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