four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
35-July-Aug-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The House on Fortune StreetFour lives intersect in Margot Livesey’s sixth novel (after Banishing Verona, 3 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2005)—with tragic results.

The Story: In four interconnected novellas, the residents of a London house struggle with seemingly ordinary lives. Sean has left his wife and his life’s work for the alluring and self-absorbed Abigail, a successful actress and the house’s owner, though he fears that their relationship is cooling. Abigail, abandoned as a teen by her free-spirited parents, chafes against Sean’s expectations and throws herself into launching her own theater company. Meanwhile, Dara, Abigail’s best friend and downstairs tenant, falls back on her training as a counselor when her own lover refuses to commit and her estranged father, Cameron, the fourth resident of the house, seeks a reconciliation. As each is forced to confront the sins and secrets of the past, tragedy looms ahead.
HarperCollins. 320 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0061451525

Chicago Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s rare for a novel to contain characters as alive as the ideas they are created to explore, but Margot Livesey’s The House on Fortune Street is one of the best of this kind to come along in a while. … Livesey is attentive as always to word choice and rhythm, and her prose beautifully evokes the thwarted passion and thrilling intrigue found in the works of Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Keats and Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll)." Conan Putnam

Raleigh News & Observer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Longtime readers of Livesey’s fiction will recognize her signature attributes: enticing, elusive characters; bright lives that come to reveal dark, even sinister mysteries; a ravishing prose style. … In its exploration of these lives, intricately entangled and richly imagined, in its deep and wise comprehension of human possibility, and in the gorgeousness of its vision, it is not just a superb book and not just a transporting one." Erin McGraw

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"It is a story about sadness, about our desperate deceptions and lonely trajectories, but this does not diminish the absolute enjoyment it affords. … The considerable suspense in her writing arises not so much from complicated turns of plot as from her ability to project the emotional states of her characters into the universe they inhabit." Carrie Brown

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Livesey’s writing is so melodic, intimate, and perfectly calibrated in The House on Fortune Street that she crawls beneath the skin of each [character], telling her tale from four distinct but interlocking points of view and meticulously knitting the threads into a devastating whole. It’s a work that lingers long after the last page is turned." Leah Greenblatt

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Livesey probes deep into her characters; her understanding of them is profound and her ability to convey her insights powerful. By the novel’s wrenching conclusion, she has succeeded in making you feel that you have been living these characters’ lives along with them." Martin Rubin

Hartford Courant 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Predictable as it is, much of this novel is fun to read because Livesey knows how to draw readers into her characters’ problems and rush them along. What is perhaps most interesting is that in a book designed to appeal to women, the most attractive and interesting characters are the men." Kit Reed

Critical Summary

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 frequent references to the works of such literary masters as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë. The Hartford Courant may have deemed the novel predictable, but others considered "this seemingly mundane story" imbued with "such substance and freshness that it draws the reader right in" (Los Angeles Times).