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The House on Fortune Street

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,625 ratings  ·  365 reviews
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 mar ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 6th 2008 by Harper (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

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I'd give this one 4.5 stars. Well-written with compelling intertwining narratives told from four different perspectives, the central ones being Abigail (a confident, overachieving actress/theatrical producer with a hard-edged personality) and her college friend Dara (a less confident, emotionally intense therapist who's been unsuccessful in relationships). Surprisingly, though, the book starts with Sean, Abigail's boyfriend, a long-suffering perfectionist grad student unable to finish his disser ...more
May 17, 2008 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
Livesey is exploring the disconnect the exists between our unstated private desires and feelings and the desires/feelings we choose to present to the world and the harm it does. Using four different characters (each one connected to a British author - Keats, Lewis Carroll, Charlotte Bronte/Virginia Woolf, and Charles Dickens - who know each other she explores the assumptions they (and we as readers) make and the consequences of those assumptions. I thought is was an extremely skillful book, that ...more
I have just finished reading this book. I feel like my insides have been turned-out and thrown on the sidewalk. I want to weep long and hard for Dara, even though she is nothing more than a fictional creation of Margot Livesey's mind. That perhaps, speaks, to the power of Livesey's work. The novel is broken into four parts; each part is presented from the perspective of a different character. We learn about each individual's life and then how each of them sees the same event/s that form the core ...more
Aug 19, 2011 Jodie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Although the prose in this book is normally a style I really like; sparse and straightforward, the characters are just very difficult to get along with. We have 4 narratives in this book, and it is too much, probably because of the stultifying amount of heavy subjects the author goes into. I had no idea, and if I did I would not have chosen this book, the themes this book would cover. I don't shy away from a difficult read, infact I usually prefer it. A couple of them on their own would have bee ...more
This book was very similar to Olive Kitteridge in that it gives several different perspectives of people with intersecting lives. Again, it makes me sad to see their futile attempts to piece together a meaningful existence and their brokenness- so evident in the decisions they make and the directions their lives are steered in.

But I also couldn't put it down. I found myself wanting to read more and hoping for a redeeming moment that made all their suffering worthwhile- that maybe they would lea
Feb 20, 2013 Spotsalots added it
Shelves: fiction
This was a deftly constructed novel that nonetheless failed to interest me deeply in most of its characters. Four sections focus on the four main characters, but only the first-person narrative of Dara's father Cameron really held my attention and prompted my sympathy. The opening section about Sean, a PhD student who has left his wife to live with the beautiful and talented but not very lovable Abigail, gave me a mild dislike of both Sean (presented as so weak-willed and vacillating) and Abigai ...more
A truly amazing example of fluid prose and linking of characters into a full circle in a story based on love and it's unsettling subtexts. Livesey writes about darkest desires, what is left aside in its pursuit and the consequences. The writing is not overly done for dramatic effect, rather it flows and pulls the reader in to a realistic feel for the characters. Told through four characters, the first gives us the ultimate event and the following are the story in relation to the individual and o ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Livesey, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, is a master of character development. She evokes her subjects' lives and multilayered emotional states so vividly that commonplace scenes contain novelty and tension. Though the story is divided into four self-contained sections, each narrated by a different character, critics were pleased to note that Livesey adeptly maintains control of the intricate plot. Most were charmed by her vibrant prose, sparkling with clarity and insight, and her freq

Wicked depressing. I have to say that it was really well written, but I really didn't like reading a book where the characters start out screwed up, get more screwed up, and end screwed up. Not a whole lot of character development.

Also the first book I read for book club (thanks, Joy!), and the first full-length book I read on the Kindle
Liesl Schlesinger devotes the first three paragraphs of her NYT review of The House on Fortune Street to a discussion of spinsterhood and then declares that in this novel, Margot Livesey explores the question, "What does it mean to be an unmarried woman?" This is puzzling. There are plenty of relationships in the novel -- a romantic relationship, a couple of marriages, father-daughter relationships -- but if you're looking for a theme, it should be something much more complicated, less reducible ...more
Lisa Mettauer
It is my good fortune to have discovered Margot Livesey’s The House on Fortune Street. It has many of the things I love in a book: a London setting, allusions to British Literature, precise and lyrical language and a mesmerizing story. Yum.

The titular house is owned by Abigail, who bought it with money inherited from an aunt. Her best friend from college, Dara, lives on the first floor. Dara is actually the center of the story - the three other main characters all have a connection with her. The
Aug 22, 2008 Laurel-Rain rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone intrigued by relationships, friendships, and events that are defining moments in life...
Abigail Taylor and Dara McLeod meet at university in Scotland, where despite their differences, they forge a fast friendship.

Over the years, the friendship ebbs and flows, the emotional and geographical distances between them often magnified by these differences. Abigail becomes an actress and Dara becomes a counselor at a women’s center, where the clients are often the victims of some kind of abuse.

When many years later, Dara begins renting the downstairs flat in a house Abigail owns in London
Tobeylynn Birch
I had enjoyed Livesey's Eva Moves the Furniture, so decided to pick up the advance reading copy of The House on Fortune Street when I stumbled upon it in the ALA conference exhibits several years ago. It languished on the bookshelf until I picked it up again to get me through a couple days in bed with a cold. And I'm glad I did. It is a well-written engrossing book of intertwined lives and how actions and secrets of others can have unforeseen consequences across relationships and generations. Th ...more
Jennifer Campaniolo
I picked up this novel on the Friday before the long weekend. I was going up to Maine to spend a few days in my in-laws cabin on a pond, and I wanted a novel that would absorb me. And this one fit the bill. Sometimes when a book gets excellent reviews from the top book critics, I personally find the novel boring. But this book earned rave reviews, and was suspenseful and engaging. It's told from four characters' points of view: Sean, a divorced student living with his former mistress, Abigail, a ...more
An surprising study of four connected people and the secrets that both bind and separate. This book was on the Entertainment Weekly list of the top fiction of the year; intrigued, I picked it up, for while I had purchased it for the Library, it hadn't really registered on my radar. As I started the novel, I wondered why it had made such an impression; the story begins with Sean, an academic who can't work on his dissertation, has become somewhat unhappy with the woman he left his wife for, etc. ...more
Gail Goetschius
The House on Fortune Street is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I nearly rated it a five, but not quite. It really had all the elements that I look for in a novel. The plot was good with some intrigue, yet the novel is not plot focused. It's beautifully written, and most importantly it has complex, fully rendered characters. Each character has both good and bad qualities, none more drastic than Cameron whose struggles to overcome his desires left a pit of dread in my stomach. I su ...more
Well, I don't know what's wrong with me but I hated this book. I found the writing so utterly dull I could barely stay awake. The structure was interesting and the references to the four novelists helped string the narrative along, but I could have cared less about these self-involved characters and found it utter drudgery to go back and finish the book. They were so two-dimensional and their motivations so predictable. Of course Abigail is a brilliant actor, of course she gets a scholarship to ...more
Nicole Laraia
Full disclosure: I have studied with Margot and like her personally. I also happen to enjoy her novels.

This book engages with Jane Eyre among other works. It is not a direct answer to it (or any of the other books involved) in the way that others including Jean Rhys's superb Wide Sargasso Sea are. Instead, it engages more subtly, evoking the primary characters through a corresponding literary work. In some ways this is a book about people who read, but it is also a book about people who love in
The NYTBR inexplicaby refers to this as a book about "spinsters" even though two of the main sections are narrated by men and even though....the book has nothing at all to do with "spinsters"; nor is it a treatise on women choosing not to marry. Nor is it, as they also say, a Rashomonlike tale.

So, what is it? Told in four discreet sections by two male and two female characters, it is a disquisition on loneliness and isolation and, most important, the secrets we fear to share because...we fear, s
I found the description in the book jacket to be somewhat misleading. Abby and Dara's relationship didn't feel like the major focus to me, and I certainly didn't notice anything about luck in the themes. Describing this book to others, I have said that it's about a young woman's suicide told from four different points of view. I found that structure -- the four different stories woven together into one -- to be very interesting, and it allows the reader to piece together Dara's psyche bit by bit ...more
Livesey has a nice style of writing but I wondered how she came up with this plot. I enjoy books written in several different viewpoints but that only works if all the viewpoints are not disturbing or uncomfortable. The chapter with Cameron was extremely morose and it was hard for me to find that it was written in a sympathetic manner. Perhaps it was because it hit close to home for me and, as a teacher, I felt disgusted. Adults know what is inappropriate and Cameron is no exception. I did see t ...more
Dec 04, 2014 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
It seems like a stroke of mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet while studying at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Despite their differences, the two young women form a firm and fast friendship and a lasting, unshakable bond. Even years later, they remain such an unlikely pair.

Abigail - an actress who confidently uses her talent both on and offstage - charms everyone she meets, but believes herself immune to love. Dara - a counselor at a crisis center
I approached Section 2 warily - wait, this story is told from multiple, separate perspectives? Oh dear. But once I pushed past that anxiety, I quite enjoyed it - it'd be a 3.5 if I could mark it so. The problem is, I believe the four separate narratives were designed to convince me why the main character did what she did - and I still didn't completely buy it by the end. Not a waste of time, exactly, just not the most judicious use of it either...
Joan Hansen
A wonderful book. It is an overlapping story told from four different perspectives. Each of the characters lives are shaped by childhood events as well as fate. Very well written - it drew me in and I couldn't wait to find out more about each character.
Olga Hebert
Divided into four parts, each section of this book was told from the perspective of one of the four main characters--Sean, a writer and live-in lover of Abigail; Cameron, amateur photographer and Dara's father; Dara, a mental health counselor; and Abigail, a London actor and theater manager. In each section the threads that bind their stories are revealed bit by bit. The threads that bind these four may appear slender, delicate, like the threads of a spider's web. If you have ever tried to sweep ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Lizzy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I suppose I should have read the description better, because this book wasn't what I expected it to be. The intertwining narrations were well done--I always appreciate the opportunity to view a tricky situation from various perspectives (it reminds me that there are a myriad of ways of looking at a problem and what you may think is a good or bad choice isn't the same conclusion someone else may draw), but I couldn't find the connections between them very well. I don't understand why the author c ...more
Livesey's best with the possible excetption of "Homework"
Wonderful in its exploration of the relativity of perception of others motive
This was such a beautiful book. I couldn't stop talking about it while I was reading it, and now I am speechless.
Agnes Roussos
Contemporary fiction set mostly in Scotland - 4 narratives from 4 separate characters: Dara, Abigail, Cameron, and Sean and how they are ultimately all inter-related. Some themes of aberrant behavior (father who is attracted to young girls), as well as theme of abandonment felt by Dara and Abigail who whose parents seriously disappointed them when they were 10 years old and how they eventually come to peace with it in very different manners. One being a survivor and the other succumbing to her f ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tatiana by: colette
Thanks Colette! I really liked this.
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Margot Livesey grew up in a boys' private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Peng ...more
More about Margot Livesey...
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“so often my own emotions were hidden not only from other people but from myself. or perhaps it was the other way round: i was hiding from them. ” 5 likes
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