At first glance, House of Dreams by Fanny Blake sounds as if it should be a rather dark and depressing book. Lucy, Tom and Jo, the three grown-up children of Hope, have all assembled at Casa de Sueños, the Spanish villa where they grew up, to scatter the ashes of their beloved mother and say goodbye to their childhood home before selling it and splitting the profits, as per her wishes.
The three children are all very different. Jo, a resilient but slightly scatterbrained single mum to a boisterous four-year-old daughter; Tom, more strait-laced, possibly because he doesn't want to recreate his chaotic bohemian upbringing with his own family, with a domineering and incredibly self-centred wife, Bella; and finally Lucy, the youngest of the siblings, who spent the final months with her mother, in an unhappy marriage that has failed to produce the children she so desired. As they go around the house sticking coloured dots on the items they remember from their childhood days, many memories of the past resurface, but even from beyond the grave, Hope has some rather life-shattering secrets that she still wants to finally disclose.
It's a heart-warming, life-affirming look at coming to terms with your past and letting go of regrets, from making peace with the fact that some mysteries will never be solved to realising that the one who got away was quite possibly a lucky escape. Through the supporting cast of rather eccentric friends who come for the final farewell party and her children's fond reminiscences, we get to build up a detailed picture of Hope's life and personality - she was undoubtedly a vivacious, fun-loving, sassy woman but her life choices didn't always provide a stable upbringing for her children.
It is a story filled with poignancy and tenderness, but also some laugh-out-loud moments - I particularly enjoyed the scenes of panic when Jo's suitcase, complete with Hope's ashes inside, goes missing at the airport ! The characters all have their good and bad sides (although for some, especially Belle, it takes a while for the more positive aspects to come through !) so it is easy to empathise with them. If you want something slightly deeper than the usual fluffy poolside chick lit this summer, it's the perfect read.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest opinion.