The House on Bellevue Gardens (by Rachel Hore)

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Rachel Hore, over quite a few years now, so I was delighted when I saw her latest novel available for review at the Bookbag site. Each of this author’s books is somewhat different; when I saw the image on the front cover, I thought immediately of a somewhat old-fashioned house in a London square.

That’s pretty much what ‘The House in Bellevue Gardens’ is about. Leonie is an artist, who lets out rooms to people in need. There’s Peter, who occupies the basement and lives in squalor; an elderly Indian couple, Hari and Bela, and a rather shy young man called Rick who is writing a graphic novel.

Then there are two young women whom we meet at the start of the book: Rosa is from Poland; she’s come to London look for her brother. Stef has run away from a controlling relationship and has nowhere else to go.

The format of the book seems a little confusing at first, with short sections from different viewpoints. Despite their different backgrounds, I found it a bit difficult to distinguish Stef and Rosa sometimes, but Leonie is a delightful person, and her unfolding story kept me reading, sometimes for an hour or more at a time. There are 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 clear plot. The recurring theme is that of freedom, and the many ways in which people can be trapped. There’s a bird stuck in a chimney whose struggles and eventual fate mirror those of some of the people. The writing flows almost poetically at times; the author’s use of description and setting are excellent, full of sensory detail.

The last few chapters felt a bit hurried, with one or two surprises and much that was predictable. But it’s a thought-provoking book, and I enjoyed it.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'The House on Bellevue Gardens' at the Bookbag site.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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