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The House on Fortune Street: A Novel Paperback – May 5, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061451541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061451546
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,355,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The absorbing latest from Livesey (Homework) opens multiple perspectives on the life of Dara MacLeod, a young London therapist, partly by paying subtle homage to literary figures and works. The first of four sections follows Keats scholar Sean Wyman: his girlfriend, Abigail, is Dara's best friend, and the couple lives upstairs from Dara in the titular London house. While Dara tries to coax her boyfriend Edward to move out of the house he shares with his ex-girlfriend and daughter, Sean receives a mysterious letter implying that Abigail is having an affair, and both relationships start to fall apart. The second section, set during Dara's childhood, is narrated by Dara's father, who has a strange fascination with Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and shares Dodgson's creepy interest in young girls. Dara's meeting with Edward dominates part three, which mirrors the plot of Jane Eyre, and the final part, reminiscent of Great Expectations, is told mainly from Abigail's college-era point of view. The pieces cross-reference and fit together seamlessly, with Dara's fate being revealed by the end of part one and explained in the denouement. Livesey's use of the classics enriches the narrative, giving Dara a larger-than-life resonance. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Life has a way of parceling out both good luck and bad, and for the residents of the duplex on the ironically named Fortune Street, the latter was regrettably the case. Failed Keats scholar Sean left his wife for Abigail, a charismatic, fiercely independent actress, only to lose her to a close friend and writing partner. Dara, Abigail’s best friend from college and downstairs neighbor, moved to London hoping to establish a relationship with her estranged father, Cameron, only to be betrayed by a duplicitous lover. Dara’s desire to uncover the reason he abandoned their family prompts Cameron to acknowledge an unsavory part of his past. And when Abigail loses both her oldest friend and true love, she is forced to reevaluate everything she once believed about herself. Intricately weaving the cause and effect of each character’s circumstances into four self-contained but essentially linked episodes, Livesey, polished and intriguing as ever, incisively explores the sinuous themes of regret and responsibility, truth and trust with an understated yet tenacious certainty. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Margot Livesey is the acclaimed author of the novels The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and The Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Livesey was born in Scotland and grew up on the edge of the Highlands. She lives in the Boston area and is a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College.

Customer Reviews

Very rarely do I not finish a book.
I loved learning more about these authors, and I felt that their presence really deepened an already wonderful novel.
Hope Edwards
The book was set up in four sections about four different characters.
Julie Peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Holsen on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spoiler Alert

I loved this book. It's a page turner but it's also a writer's dream. It does what every great novel does--makes you see the world in new ways through your sympathy with its main characters. You become attuned to Cameron's soul before you know that his fantasy life is filled with sexual attraction to pre-pubescent girls. By the time you learn what he loves, you already love him. (It helps, of course, that he doesn't act on his feelings.) Dara, his daughter, is needy and bereft, but can't love what she needs. She gives her heart to self centered jerks, and you, the reader, want to weep with her for her repeated mistakes. Her best friend, Abigail, is surprised at how easily Dara forgets her friends, her family, and anything that might actually help her, when in love with a man. Abigail herself finds romantic love evasive, until she falls, hard, and bends all her powerful will towards, Sean, the object of her passion. Her actions, viewed from others' points of view, seem a bit cold and calculated. But when the story turns to her point of view, you want to cheer her on, and you understand, finally, what drives her. Sean, the first one we meet, but the last one I got attached to, is more subtle and confused than the others, but ultimately, the most honest and honorable of them all. His section of the story, among other things, teaches you not to jump to conclusions.

This is a story about the varieties of love, but it is also a story about how "time and chance happeneth to us all." If Cameron hadn't come back to the tent at that exact moment, his passions would most likely have remained a secret forever; Dara would not have been and therefore felt abandoned and Cameron would not have lost his first family.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Hope Edwards on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The House on Fortune Street is the best, most absorbing novel I have read all year (and as I have been on a sabbatical, this has been a year of passionate novel reading for me).

The House on Fortune Street isn't a thriller or a whodunit, but at its heart is a mystery. As I read, I found that I felt more and more like a detective, gradually figuring out what has happened and why. I can't remember the last time I felt so engaged in this way by a novel.

The story is set mostly in contemporary London and revolves around four characters, each of whom has his or her own section, and story. When the novel opens, three of the four main characters are living in the house on Fortune Street: Abigail, an actress, owns the house and she and her boyfriend, Sean, a graduate student, live upstairs; Abigail's best friend Dara, a therapist, lives in the garden flat. The first part of the novel is told from Sean's point of view as he struggles to finish his dissertation on Keats, and also struggles with his finances - a crucial issue between him and Abigail. Only near the end of his part did I realize that, like Sean, I hadn't been paying enough attention to what was really important: his neighbor, Dara's, despair.

Dara is in many ways the main character in the novel and it is her story that we are figuring out. The second part of the novel is told from the point of view of her father, Cameron, an ardent amateur photographer who ruins his life, and Dara's, by taking a fatal photograph. In the third part of the novel we hear from Dara herself. And finally, in the fourth, from Abigail.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Al Terego on May 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Until now, Eva Moves the Furniture was my unqualified favorite of Margot Livesey's works - it has a quiet loveliness that, for me, is shared only with Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It and Brian Kitely's Still Life with Insects. However, The House on Fortune Street, with it's multiple parts and viewpoints and narrative voices and literary allusions is, by far, her richest, most ambitious, and most successful and satisfying work. The four principal characters' stories are woven tightly and seamlessly together to form a powerful narrative that never feels contrived. The allusions are similarly rich, but never depend upon a reader's familiarity with 19th century literature.

I appreciate Mr. McDonald's thoughtful review, but I respectfully disagree strongly with him - in particular his statement that the novel `starts over in a new setting, with a new cast and a new problem in each part'. As I mention above, The four related parts refract the characters and plot elements in various ways, and, in so doing, create a complex, compelling moral and psychological texture. Livesey never waivers in her focus, in all of the sections, on the principal characters. Finally, aside from my essential disagreement with his assertion that `These people are always eating', I would point out that preparing and eating food actually consumes a substantial proportion of the time that we're not working or sleeping or (for many people) watching television.

I'm a long-time fan of Margot Livesey, I've read all of her books, and this is the first time I've been moved to review a book on the Web.
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