Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wake: A Novel by Anna Hope

The blurb:
Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath.
London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But 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, 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 Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada 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.

Three women must find a way to cope with the ravages of the Great War.  Hettie, a dance instructress, lives with her mother and a brother suffering from shellshock.  She meets a mysterious and wealthy stranger.  Evelyn comes from a privileged family and chooses to work at the Pension Exchange as a way to deal with the loss of her fiance during World War I.  Evelyn suffers the anger and frustration of veterans and deals with them dispassionately until a private comes into the Pension Exchange searching for someone that she knows well.  Evelyn looks for meaning through her brother, also damaged by the War.  Ada, the mother, cannot stop seeing her son Michael.  Ada imagines Michael everywhere she goes and her life comes apart when a young man comes into her house and says Michael's name.

The suspenseful moments in Wake were well done and Anna Hope conveys the women's suffering effectively with economy, but I didn't feel drawn to the characters.  If you are fascinated by the effects of World War I, you might enjoy Wake.

  • ISBN-10: 0812995139 - Hardcover $26
  • Publisher: Random House (February 11, 2014), 304 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

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