Romance and real estate combine in the latest from British novelist Jewell (Vince and Joy, 2006, etc.).
On one side of a North London suburban street lives 35-year-old Leah, who is having boyfriend trouble. On the other side of the street, in an ornate but neglected Victorian curiosity, lives socially uncertain poet Toby, whose father gave him the house as his legacy 15 years ago, and who has filled it with lame duck and oddball tenants. As the book opens, Leah finally meets Toby—whom she’s observed for ages—while standing over the corpse of his oldest tenant, found dead outside. When Toby learns the tenant has left him a lot of money, he realizes he is now free to sell and move to Cornwall. But first he must evict his collection of waifs-and-strays tenants and remodel his house, and for that he seeks neighbor Leah’s help. Hand-in-hand with the domestic renovation, Toby himself is transformed from grungy dweeb into insightful partner who actively helps sort out the lives of those renting his rooms: young Con, in love with Daisy from the office; mysterious Joanne, who must move beyond her tragic past; and slutty, unscrupulous musician Ruby, who finally gets with the program. Leah and Toby eventually reach a fairy-tale conclusion too, in a junk shop overlooking the sea.
A skillfully written, cheerful book.