Fortunate Street, Jane Butler

Victoria Conway is out walking when she comes across a home for elderly ladies and decides to fill her empty days by volunteering to help at St. Clare’s. On her first day there she meets the sad and enigmatic Liza Parrish, who she feels drawn to. Despite Liza’s reluctance to open up to Victoria the two become friends and Victoria is devastated when Liza dies. After her funeral, which is attended by two members of her family and staff from St. Clares, as well as Victoria and her husband Neil, she is handed a package from Liza. It is a journal of Liza’s life. As Victoria and Neil read the journal a tale of almost unbelievable hardship and heartache unfolds as Liza’s previously unmentioned life story is revealed. Jane Butler’s fascinating novel Fortunate Street tells a story of hardship and toil from the years just before the First World War through the Second World War. Liza’s life is full of hardship and disappointments but she lives and dies with a quiet dignity.

Publisher: Austin Macauley, Jan 2014

Reviewer: Kirsten Savage

Fortunate Street is a truly unique story. Based on the life of the author’s aunt, this book rings true in a way that really makes the reader stop and think about life.

The book starts by following the story of Victoria Conway as she searches for purpose in her life. She finds a place as a volunteer in a Home for Elderly Ladies and befriends the enchanting Liza Parrish. Sweet and melancholy, Liza soon steals the the hearts of Victoria and her husband.  She’s hiding something though. Some deep sadness that she won’t, perhaps can’t, reveal to her new friends. What will Victoria find when she reads Liza’s handwritten life story?

This book deals with some strong issues. The author isn’t afraid to discuss the kind of poverty that was prevalent at the start of the twentieth century. Nor does this novel shy away from highlighting religious attitudes towards things like death, grieving and adultery. Jane Butler, the author, doesn’t soften the story or try to play to a specific audience. She tells the whole story.

This book is tragic and bittersweet to the end. The characters are well developed and rounded with intriguing back stories. Liza, the main character, is strong willed and painfully lovable. As you read it,be prepared to feel her pain, cry her tears and back her in every one of her battles against life’s cruelties.

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