Monday, October 14, 2013

Wake: A Novel by Anna Hope

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 11, 2013

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath. Hettie, a dance instructress at the Palais, lives at home with her mother and her brother, mute and lost after his return from the war. One night, at work, she meets a wealthy, educated man and has reason to think he is as smitten with her as she is with him. Still there is somethi7ng distracted about him, something she cannot reach... Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, more and more estranged from her posh parents, she looks for solace in her adored brother who has not been the same since he returned from the front...Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out of work veterans. But when he shows signs of being seriously disturbed-she recognizes the symptoms of "shell shock"-and utters the name of her son she is jolted to the core... The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.

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I wont lie, when I finished Anna Hope's Wake, I was just happy to be done with it. The frequent shifts between characters and the emotional drama of their individual stories left me mentally exhausted. In point of fact I set my review aside, determined to clear my head before trying to compose my thoughts because I was so put out with my reading. Thing is, the longer I let it sit, the more I seemed to appreciate it.   

On the surface Hope is depicting a trio of women and the complex web that ties them together, but beneath that is some really interesting concept material and I think this underlying thesis is what makes the book. Think Ian McEwan's Atonement without the hit you like a ton of bricks final revelation. Hope is a more subtle storyteller, but no less thought-provoking. 

I maintain this is a difficult novel to get into. It is not character driven and there is really no action to propel the story along, but that being said, once you have a chance to really process the story Hope is telling, you realize how powerfully poignant a novel it is. 

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Why can't he just move on? Not just him. All of them. All of the ex-soldiers, standing, begging in the street, boards tied around their necks. All of them reminding you of something that you want to forget. It went on long enough. She grew up under it, like a great squatting thing, leaching all the color and joy life. She kicks her dance dress into the corner of the room. The war's over. Why can't all of them just bloody well move on
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