Though I enjoyed reading this novel about a young history scholar who discovers a magical house just at the point of need, the story sometimes became a bit too twee for my taste. Alba Ashby has just dropped out of Cambridge, reeling from the betrayal of her mentor/advisor when she stumbles upon 11 Hope Street. An older woman named Peggy invites her in and makes her an offer—she can stay for ninety-nine days and try to get her life back on track but only ninety-nine days.
Alba accepts the offer and after moving in, meets the house’s other current visitors—Carmen, a singer, and Greer, an actress. It turns out that there are other less corporeal inhabitants. Many women, now famous, spent time at 11 Hope Street and their spirits still remain-offering guidance and advice to the current residents. Alba becomes friends with Stella, a woman who spent time at 11 Hope Street in the 20’s but died tragically and their relationship puts Alba on the road to healing but also gives her strength to stand up to her unpleasant family.
The novel follows the stories of all the inhabitants of the house including the current caretaker, Peggy, who is told by the house that she will “die within the year” shortly after Alba arrives. There are lots of nods to famous women from Emmeline Pankhurst to Dorothy Parker and the novel throws some fun twists at the end. However, the whole thing felt a bit too “pat” for me—everything falling into place at the end like tumblers in a lock. This is how I know this fantasy is just fantasy.