Living rent-free in Cambridge for 99 days really would be magical.
Menna van Praag’s debut novel is an easy read: a heart-warming story about three dejected women who find hope in a magical house.
But the plot is far more nuanced than it might first seem. The various narrative strands are intricate and are interwoven effectively through regularly shifting viewpoints. Moreover, the characters are all vivid and complex, which makes their actions and reactions believable.
The fantastical elements are successfully integrated into the story. This is particularly the case with Alba’s ability to see the colours of words, a lovely idea that allows van Praag to paint some beautiful dialogue scenes.
Peggy, the “Fairy Godmother” of Hope Street, is an interesting character. Her personal intrigue highlights how those who devote their lives to others are at times the ones most in need of a helping hand.
The only thing that tempered my enjoyment of the novel was the number of typographical errors it contained. For a book that celebrates the beauty of writing, I found that the style didn’t always live up to these high aspirations. In fairness, this became less of an issue as the story progressed, which is testament to the powerful narratives.
This charming tale is surprisingly compelling. A much-needed distraction in dark times.