The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore

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The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A warm and sometimes surprising story about a group of diverse people who share a home in London.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471130786

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Leonie was left a large, somewhat run-down London house by a friend, some years previously. She's an artist, and something of a bohemian, and lets out rooms at low price to people in need. There's Peter, who occupies the basement and lives in squalor, which - occasionally - she tries to clean up. There are also an elderly Indian couple, Hari and Bela, who have been there for some time, and a young and rather shy man called Rick who is writing a graphic novel.

Then there are two young women from very different backgrounds whom we meet at the start of the book. Rosa is from Poland; she's come to London to look for her brother, who moved there several months earlier but has not been in touch. Stef has run away from an all-consuming and controlling relationship and has nowhere else to go.

The setup reminded me more than once of some of Maeve Binchy's novels, at least in the earlier parts of the book. Each of the main characters has a voice, an interesting history, and a growing relationship with each of the others. Stef is nervous, Rosa is worried; Leonie has a past career that only gradually comes to light, as she looks at photo albums and talks about her memories.

The format of the book seems a little confusing at first, with short sections from different viewpoints, each one headed by the name of the person concerned. Despite their different backgrounds and stories, I found it a bit difficult to distinguish Stef and Rosa at first, and felt that Rick was a bit difficult to get to know. But Leonie is a delightful person, and her unfolding story kept me reading, sometimes for an hour or more at a time. There are undoubtedly some caricatures in the minor characters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It's not a fast action story, nor is there any single plot. The recurring theme is that of imprisonment and freedom, and the many ways in which people can be trapped, either by others, or physically, or through their own mistakes. There's a bird stuck in a chimney whose struggles and eventual fate mirror the lives of several of the characters in the book. The writing flows almost poetically at times; the author's use of description and setting are excellent, giving just enough sensory details to help the imagination, without being overwhelming.

The last few chapters seemed a bit hurried in places, with one or two surprises and much that was predictable. It's a thought-provoking book, more so than a lot of women's fiction, and the ending was hopeful. All in all, I enjoyed it.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending this to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals, you might also like A Place Of Secrets by Rachel Hore or - with a similar setup - The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly. You might also enjoy An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding by Christina Jones.

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Buy The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore at


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