So, we know girls are supposed to be all “sugar and spice and everything nice,” but here at No Boys Allowed Reviews, we’re all about flouting convention — and never more-so than when we’re trying to settle on which books we should add to our reading list. It can turn into a knock-down, drag-out brawl. I’m not talking claws and hair-pulling here. It’s more like… okay, well, it’s a virtual fight. So it’s more like lots of caps-locks and exclamation points… but it’s not nice. It’s TOUGH! Alyisha has an infuriating predilection for magic and ghosts; Megan refuses to read anything sad; Arianne doesn’t like to read brand-new books (they tend to be hard for her to procure from her local library); Victoria, Kristin, and Megan all prefer British things; Alyisha ends up screaming “‘MURICA!” while simultaneously trying to see how many french fries she can shove in her mouth at the same time.
It’s not a pretty sight.
But there are certain literary tropes that will calm us savage book club beasts: we love book-lovers’ books — books with lush descriptions of libraries and bookshops, where the protagonists lose themselves in the written word just like we do — and we all get weak in the knees for books featuring grand, old houses. Crumbling castles, wisteria-covered colonials, country manses with verdant gardens: they all make us channel our inner Veruca Salt.
That’s why we unanimously agreed to read Menna Van Praag’s The House at the End of Hope Street, which is about a sanctuary where women have gone since time immemorial to regroup after suffering life’s hardships. It’s a place that morphs according to its residents’ desires, where the photographs on the walls talk (haunted by the spirits of former residents), and where notable women such as Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, and Florence Nightingale once stayed. It weaves together the stories of three women: Alba, Greer, and Carmen, all at a turning-point in their lives where they could either bounce back stronger than ever or lose it completely.
Agreeing to read a book, however, is not the same thing as agreeing about its quality after having read it. Did we have a peaceable discussion of the novel at our last meeting? Or, did we result once again to capital letters, emphatic punctuation, and binge-eating? Read on to find out…