Review: The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey

02 Jul

The House on Fortune StreetMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

The House on Fortune Street is a book divided into four sections, each telling the story of a different character. These chapters overlap in the events they cover, but each covers enough different ground to not to seem repetitive.

Sean is a writer and struggling academic.  He’s living in the house on Fortune Street with his girlfriend Abigail, who convinced him to leave his wife for her.   He works part time for the theater company that takes up most of her time. Abigail’s best friend Dara lives in the flat downstairs.  She’s a therapist at a women’s clinic.  The fourth player is Dara’s father, Cameron.   He’s a very nice man who tries very hard to overcome his one flaw that some people (including Dara’s mother) find unforgivable.

The book got off to a very slow start for me. I didn’t get the point of Sean’s story at all. He seemed like a loser, largely due to his own choices, unwilling to change the direction of his life (although he goes along with others changing it for him). I didn’t like him, sympathize with him, find him interesting, are understand why we were reading about him.

It picked up quite a bit after that.

Cameron’s story was interesting. He was a generally likable guy, struggling with a problem that in and of itself could make him very unlikable.   The events in this story start much earlier than the previous chapter. Besides letting the reader get to know Cameron (only a very minor character in Sean’s story, but quite an interesting guy) it sets up Dara’s chapter.

Dara and Abigail were both interesting characters, and their chapters are when the book really came to life for me. The two women are contrasts in personality and background. but become close friends in college, then drift apart again. I really appreciated seeing into their thoughts that kept them apart.

Both women were significantly affected by the events in their past.  For Dara, we see those events from Cameron’s point of view.  For Abigail, we see them from her own.  Through their lives, they react and make decisions in a way that makes you wonder how different their lives could have been.

In the end, this was a very satisfying read. It’s worth hanging on past the first section.

Book Club Notes

I read The House on Fortune Street  for my Book Club M.   Four of us met to discuss it.  All of us liked it.  I was the only one with significant reservations about any part of it, although at least one person had some of the same issues with Sean’s section.  We had a good discussion about the characters:  Was the end of Dara’s story believable?  Was Cameron’s flaw forgivable?  Did he ever step over a line?  Was Abigail a supportive friend?  The discussion questions also suggested that each character’s life was connected to that of a well known writer.  Some of these parallels were clear, others less so,  and both ways, they were interesting to discuss.

I’d count The House on Fortune Street as a book club success.


Posted by on July 2, 2010 in Book Club, books, M, reviews


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5 responses to “Review: The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey

  1. Lisa

    July 2, 2010 at 10:19 am

    It does sound like a book club that stirred up lots to discuss.

  2. madhaus

    July 6, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I am in Laura’s book club and I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t have trouble with the first character, Sean. Yeah, he was passive, but he was passive in a way I understood. He’s the type that lets things happen to him, and then wakes up and he’s stuck in a marriage he doesn’t understand, or writing a dissertation on Keats, or writing a how-to book on suicide. People just tend to push him around and he has no idea how to ask for what he wants.

    I really liked the order the characters were presented in. The leap from Sean to Cameron is HUGE, because it takes a long time to realize that they actually have a connection. I also liked that Abigail was presented last. She is described by all 3 other characters in a way that makes the reader dislike her, then when it’s her viewpoint all this seems mitigated. Her story was amazing in how it turned so much around. She and Dara were so different, I did have trouble sometimes wondering how they stayed friends as long as they did.

    Enjoyed it a lot.

    • Laura

      July 6, 2010 at 12:05 am

      Interesting– something that didn’t come out in our discussion. I don’t remember disliking Abigail, even when I didn’t quite understand her, or like her actions. Maybe my dislike of Sean made me more sympathetic to her!

  3. Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Mom)

    July 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I’ve had this on my Goodreads list forever. I get to pick our book club choice in a few months…I need to keep this in mind! Thanks for dropping my my blog — totally agree about HP/PJ — there are no new themes in literature!! Everyone has borrowed from someone else at some point!


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