One Minute Book Reviews: The House on Fortune Street

Usually when I finish a book that I’ve bought, I lend it out. I write my name in the front and bring it to poker, then I throw it in the ring and my gal pals fight over it like bridesmaids fighting over the bouquet. Eventually everyone gets a turn and then we can all discuss it.

Now that I’m Library Girl, though, I can’t share the books I’m reading. So I’ve decided to write some mini-reviews of the novels I’m checking out instead, to give them a little word-of-mouth action.

This week I’ve been reading The House On Fortune Street by Margot Livesey.

The owner of the house on Fortune Street is Abigail, an actress whose career is just starting to take off. She lives in the upper two floors of the house with her boyfriend, Sean; her best friend Dara lives in the apartment on the main floor. Sean is feeling lonely and angry at Abigail’s constant travelling and refusal to allow herself to be emotionally close to him. Meanwhile, Dara is struggling to connect with her father Cameron, who was absent from her life for many years after her parents’ bitter divorce, and also with her boyfriend Edward, who is still living with his ex-girlfriend and their daughter.

This kind of novel is right up my alley — everyday people struggling with everyday problems. The prose is very sparse, and I admit it was hard to get into at first — I felt emotionally removed from the action. By about page 40, though, everything clicked and suddenly I was engrossed. I grew to love the writing style; the matter-of-factness made every event, small or big, seem to carry the same weight, and indeed, it is exactly the point of the book that the smallest, most insignificant comment to one character can have an enormous impact on another.

The story is told in four sections, each from a different character’s point of view (Sean, Cameron, Dara, and Abigail). With each section we learn more about different parts of the story, and we get to know each person better. I loved this approach, although it does have its drawbacks — since Abigail is last to tell her story, for example, it’s hard to build sympathy for her in the early chapters, and it may be too late to have us like her by the end of the book.

Still, I really enjoyed this book. If I owned it, I would definitely take it to poker.

Overall rating: B+