If you enjoy historical fiction and/or you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and loved it, then Anna Hope’s Wake is a book you need to read! At about page 50, I remember stopping my reading and heading to Google to learn more about Anna Hope and was shocked to learn that this is her debut novel. After three or four articles confirming that this was indeed her first kick at the can, I shook my head in disbelief and continued reading.
This novel is set in the aftermath of WWI, but rather than hearing from a man’s point of view, Wake examines the reaction of three women as the men in their lives come back into their world with a completely different perspective. There are three women that the novel with voices; Hettie, Evelyn and Ada and each woman approaches their return differently.
Hettie is a young woman whom provides dancing lessons to people in their town. She lives with her Mother and her brother, who has just arrived home and is mute about almost everything. She can’t fathom why people just get on with it. Why does everyone have to keep dragging out the agony of the war and why can’t they just move on? Although a tad naive, Hettie was my favourite character. Young, eager and happy to please, her growth throughout the novel was my favourite to watch.
Then you have Evelyn. She works at the Pensions Exchange, which is the location where those that were wounded in the war come for support. She’s experiencing her own loss and can’t quite seem to come to terms with everything happening around her. That’s why she looks to her brother for strength. But her brother, once strong and adored by all is not the same man he used to be…
Last, but not least we have Ada. Poor Ada is at a loss, because she’s not sure what’s happened to her son. He’s not returned home and she has yet to receive notice that he has passed. Every corner she turns, she longs to see her son, but with her husband urging and beggingher to move on, she can’t close that chapter until she finds out what really happened.
These women’s stories don’t necessarily overlap, but they do intertwine in a beautiful and poetic way that I never saw coming. There’s something to be said for an author that can weave so many complicated and raw emotions into 304 pages. I can’t imagine it would be an easy task. There of course are references to death, but in meeting Anna Hope this past month, she shared that to really understand how to write about death she did some research in reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Of course when writing about a time in history, it requires a lot of research and there’s no doubt about it, Anna Hope did her homework. And if it were up to me, I’d give her an A+. This novel remembers a time of difficulty and examines it in a new, refreshing way. I highly recommend picking up a copy that next time your at your local bookstore.
Be sure to follow Anna Hope on Twitter at @Anna_Hope