The House at the End of Hope Street - By Menna van Praag


Andrea Cirillo and Christina Hogrebe, thank you for loving Hope Street, and the women who lived there, and for finding them such a beautiful home. The moment I stepped into the JRA I knew I’d found my perfect home. Thanks to Pamela Dorman for believing in this book and seeing how it could be even better. Thanks to Julie Miesionczek for crafting everything so beautifully. The four of you helped turn Hope Street into a more magical story than I imagined possible. Ditto to David Lown (otherwise known as Dad) and Alice Loveday (otherwise known as Al), who read endless, endless drafts—thank you for such patience, persistence and generosity. Thank you to Penny Macleod and Laurence Gouldbourne for providing brilliant, thoughtful feedback whenever I asked and hand holding whenever I needed. Thank you to Dave for inspiring the ending and bringing all the cake.

All my love to Artur, as ever you make it all worthwhile. And thank you for always being with Oscar whenever I was at Hope Street. Thanks to Oscar for sleeping on my lap while I wrote. Thanks to Arnold and Fay and Andy and Leah for reading so many drafts, your passion and enthusiasm lit my way from beginning to end.

For everyone, many more than are mentioned here, who helped bring Hope Street into the world, the words thank you are hardly adequate. But I trust you each know what great feelings are held within those two little words.


Title Page




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six


A Guide to the Women of Hope Street

The Colors of Alba’s World

Chapter One

The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It’s larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys rising into the sky. The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears to be enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.

The house is built in red brick, the color of rust, and of Alba Ashby’s coat—a rare splash of brightness in a wardrobe of black clothes. Alba doesn’t know what she’s doing, standing on the doorstep, staring at the number eleven nailed to the silver door. She’s lived in Cambridge for four of her nineteen years, but has never been down this street before. And there is no reason for her to be here now, except that she has nowhere else to go.

In the silence Alba’s thoughts, the ones she’s been trying to escape on her midnight walks through town, begin to circle, gathering force in her mind, ready to whip themselves into a hurricane. How did this happen? How could this happen to me? She’s always been so careful, never inviting any drama or disaster, living like a very sensible seventy-nine-year-old: in a tiny box with a tight lid.

And while most people wouldn’t achieve much under such strict limitations, Alba achieved more than most: five A-levels at fifteen, a place at King’s College, Cambridge, to read Modern History, and full PhD funding at eighteen. All this by virtue of two extraordinary traits: her intelligence and her sight. At age four and a half, as well as being able to name and date all the kings and queens of England, Alba started to realize she could see things other people couldn’t: the ghost of her grandma at the breakfast table, the paw prints of long-disappeared cats in the grass, the aura of her mother moments before she entered a room. Alba could see smells drifting toward her before she smelled them and sounds vibrating in the air minutes before she heard them. So, because Alba knew things other people didn’t, they never noticed she lived her life in a box.

But ever since the worst event of Alba’s life, she’s barely been able to see anything at all, constantly tripping over pavement edges, falling down steps, and walking into walls. She still hasn’t cried because to stay in shock feels safer, it keeps a distance between her and the thing she’s trying to pretend hasn’t happened. The numbness surrounds her, a buffer against the outside world, through which Alba can hardly breathe or see.

Today is the