K's Reviews > The House on Fortune Street

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
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Oct 01, 09

Recommended to K by: TABBIEs book club

A tragedy occurs which affects four characters, and in this novel (really four interlocking novellas), each character has a narrative which sheds new light on the tragedy. The characters are Sean, a doctoral student struggling with whether or not to continue his dissertation after seven years of limited progress; Sean’s live-in girlfriend, Abigail, whose feelings for Sean are far more transient than Sean’s passion for her; their downstairs neighbor, Dara, Abigail’s best friend from college and a therapist who, in sharp contrast to Abigail, tends to get overly invested in her ill-fated romantic relationships, and Dara’s father, Cameron, who has struggled against pedophilic urges all his life and lost his wife and children as a result, reuniting with Dara as an adult but understandably unable to honestly explain the divorce and his former estrangement so that a barrier remains between him and Dara.

The writing was good, and the story and characters and relationships were multidimensional (Sean’s narrative, the first one, was much less compelling but as a goodreads reviewer pointed out, he was probably just there to set the stage). The book’s structure was interesting and allowed the basic story’s facets to unfold like layers of an onion, but for all that, we never fully understand what led up to the central tragedy. This may have been intentional, but I found it unsatisfying. I also found the book pretty depressing overall and somehow never felt fully invested in the characters despite the book’s readability.

Other goodreads reviewers pointed out some striking things about this book – that each character has a 19th century author to whom their story is connected in some way; that each character lives in a house that seems safe and suddenly discovers that the house’s safety was an illusion. Very true, very literary and impressive, but I still found my overall reading experience somewhat lacking despite all the praise I can heap on the book for its technique and creativity.

Finally, the aspect of the book that I thought was most interesting, Abigail and Dara’s unlikely friendship and the complicated dynamic between them, was the part of the book least focused on – contrary what the blurb had led me to believe. It is only at the end of the book that Abigail begins to reveal in her narrative the various underlying tensions that competed with the deep mutual affection she and Dara had. Those few pages touched me the most, and I closed the book wishing that the story had explored that more and wasted less time fleshing out some of the other conflicts.

Overall, I admired this book a lot more than I actually liked it, if that makes any sense.
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Reading Progress

09/29/2009 page 175
54.69% "Pretty readable, but the characters aren't grabbing me a whole lot."

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