Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: The House on Fortune Street

Summary: It seems like mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet at St. Andrews University and, despite their differences, become fast friends. Years later they remain an unlikely pair. Abigail, an actress who confidently uses her charms both on- and offstage, believes herself immune to love. Dara, a counselor, is convinced that everyone is inescapably marked by childhood; she throws herself into romantic relationships with frightening intensity. Yet now each seems to have found "true love"—another stroke of luck?—Abigail with her academic boyfriend, Sean, and Dara with a tall, dark violinist named Edward, who literally falls at her feet. But soon after Dara moves into Abigail's downstairs apartment, trouble threatens both relationships, and their friendship.

For Abigail it comes in the form of an anonymous letter to Sean claiming that she's been unfaithful; for Dara, a reconciliation with her distant father, Cameron, who left the family when Dara was ten, reawakens complicated feelings. Through four ingeniously interlocking narratives—Sean's, Cameron's, Dara's, and Abigail's—we gradually understand how these characters' lives are shaped by both chance and determination. Whatever the source, there is no mistaking the tragedy that strikes the house on Fortune Street.

"Everyone," claims Abigail, "has a book or a writer who's the key to their life." As this statement reverberates through each of the narratives, Margot Livesey skillfully reveals how luck—good and bad—plays a vital role in our lives, and how the search for truth can prove a dangerous undertaking. Written with her characteristic elegance and wit, The House on Fortune Street offers a surprisingly provocative detective story of the heart.-- Harper Perennial

I have read a few raving reviews about THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET by Margot Livesey, including one from a person whose opinion I respect a great deal
; and I just knew that I had to read it. I had a feeling that this novel was going to be a beautifully written story with well-developed and memorable characters, and it indeed was! After I finished the book, I closed it and just said "Wow."

I absolutely treasured each and every word of this novel because the writing was just so rich and beautiful. The book was set up in four sections about four different characters. One section was written in first person while the other three were told in third person narrative. No matter which device Ms. Lively used to tell the story, each one was equally effective. I happened to appreciate that the section about the character with whom I had the most issues was written in first person. I think reading his personal thoughts allowed me to understand him more and actually be more sympathetic towards his actions.

I love how the author told each of these characters' separate stories while also showing some of the overlap. It was very interesting to see the same event and how two (or more) of the characters perceived it. I was very impressed with how Ms. Lively was able to weave all of the stories together and really show the effects that individual behavior can have on others. As a reader, I felt almost privileged to see inside these characters' lives and genuinely understand their actions and even their reactions.
This book definitely reminded me that our behavior can affect others in ways we don't even realize.

For me, this book was really an amazing example of how well an author can create and develop characters. It is an extremely character driven novel. Each of these characters was quite complex and flawed in what first appeared to me to be very different ways. However after I finished reading this novel, I kept thinking about these characters and I realized that many of their "issues" were common to all of them (and actually are quite common to many people.)

Another thing that I was blown away by was how Ms. Lively managed to effectively weave so many recurring themes throughout all four stories. Probably the most obvious to me was how she had each character have a special interest in a different literary figure. I wish I were more familiar with these authors' works, so I could have fully appreciated what this told the reader about each character. In addition, I thought the author did a terrific job in showing how all of the character had a secret or something from their past that either they couldn't come to terms with or still had a dramatic effect on their life.

I have to mention one thing about THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET that kind of threw me for a little loop. I read the back cover of the book before I actually started reading it; and I had an expectation of the story which was somewhat different than what the book actually was. The book summary focuses on the characters of Abigail and Dara so I was expecting the book to be mainly about them. The first two sections of the book are actually about Abigail's boyfriend and Dara's father, so I was a little confused. The last two chapters were about Dara and Abigail. Once I completed the entire book, it made total sense to me; and the stories all came together. I'm just saying that I found the summary to be a little confusing -- but maybe I'm way off base on this.

Trust me on this one, if your book club loves good literature, then THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET is an ideal selection. As I mentioned earlier, the writing and the development of the characters is amazing; and the entire story is incredibly thought-provoking. There is a
reading guide available which delves into some of the more complex issues including: love, trust, choice, luck, and secrets. There are so many topics to discuss that I'm not sure you could fit them all in one meeting. I really, really recommend this book for book clubs.

Thanks to Stephanie from Harper Collins for sending me a review copy of THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET.


ANovelMenagerie said...

Well, April & Oliver is another character driven story... so, I hope you like that as well. This book sounds fantastic. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for it!


Pam said...

This sounds great. I'm definitely adding it to my ever-growing reading list and possible book club selections for next year... Thanks!

bermudaonion said...

Fantastic review, Julie! You've made me want to read the book!

Beth F said...

I like books with great characters. You've convinced me that I should consider adding this to my wish list.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this! I have it in my review stack.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I've read a few of Margot Livesey's books and really liked them. It's good to know you're so enthusiastic about this one.

Kristi said...

This does sound like a good book. Nice review!