Book Reviews

Wake: A Novel by Anna Hope

17829483[1]“A brilliant debut for readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in which three women must deal with the aftershocks of WWI and its impact on the men in their lives-a son, a brother and a lover. Their tragic connection is slowly revealed as the book unfolds.

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 something 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 Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her.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.” ~Goodreads

Released February 11, 2014

This debut historical fiction novel really embodies the aftermath of WWI when many of the soldiers didn’t return home and the people who loved them felt empty inside. Empty because many of the surviving families didn’t have closure of knowing what happened to them as well as no body to bury properly at that time. Even the ones who did return were never the same again due to injuries, shellshock and guilt for being alive.

There are four narrators in this novel: Evelyn, Ada, Hettie and an Unknown Soldier making his way from France to Westminster Abbey as the final resting place. Their stories and lives are intertwined somehow and the writing beautifully unfolds the connection over five days in November 1920.

Having spent a week in London last summer, I was quickly returned to that amazing experience on the streets of Trafalgar Square, Marylebone Road, Oxford Street, Soho, Hyde Park and Charing Cross Road. I also went to Westminster Abbey and stood by the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and thought about it’s significance for the many people whose loved ones were “missing”. Pictures weren’t allowed inside of Westminster but I found these on Pinterest:

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While I found each of the stories equally tragic and heartbreaking, the funeral in London had me holding my breath. Hundreds and hundreds of people all watching for the arrival of The Unknown Soldier, the air think with anticipation, grief, sorrow and hope that it is their loved one in the casket. Not only are the streets crowded with people of all ages but the surrounding buildings have people watching from windows and balconies. The drums begin, the pipers follow suit and then the casket is revealed covered with a flag and a dented helmet with the crowd sobbing. A funeral for thousands of people who lost their loved one. Not only for the people of London but for all of the people during this tragic time in history.

Anna Hope is a beautiful writer. It’s hard to believe this is her debut novel and I look forward to many more of her books.

How can I do a review without any quotes? So here is one that resonated with me that deals with loss no matter what the circumstance:

“I see so many women here…holding on to their sons or their lovers or their husbands, or their fathers, just as surely as they are holding on to the photographs that they keep or the fragments of childhood…they’re all different but he same. All of them are afraid to let them go. And if we feel guilt, we find it harder to release the dead. We keep them close to us; we guard them jealously. They were ours. We want them to remain ours…but they are not ours…and in a sense, they never were. They belong to themselves, only. And this is terrible in some ways, and in others…it might set us free.”

**Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an advance reader’s copy. I was not compensated or required to review this novel. The quote used was checked against the final bound copy.

“Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.

Anna’s powerful first novel, WAKE, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, WAKE weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House. The book will be published in Doubleday hardback in early 2014.” ~ Goodreads

While she doesn’t have a website (that I could find) you can follow her here on Twitter.

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