- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Random House; Stated First Edition edition (February 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812995139
- ISBN-13: 978-0812995138
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 127 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,384,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Wake: A Novel Hardcover – February 11, 2014
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Wake is skillfully written from the outset, though the initial premise doesn’t feel especially groundbreaking: in post-WWI London, three ordinary women cope with their stagnant lives. Hettie partners single men at a Hammersmith dance hall to support her mother and shell-shocked brother, upper-class Evelyn works as a pension clerk while mourning her lover, and Ada can’t move past her soldier son’s death. Hope then proceeds to color in their personal histories, revealing the distinctiveness of each character and situation over five days, during the lead-up to the unveiling of the Unknown Warrior’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. As their circumstances change and new people enter their lives, the women are spurred to action. Likewise, as these characters’ stories and others’ are intermixed, readers will be flipping pages to discover their tragic connection. The background details are vivid, from a crowded West End jazz club to the trenches of northern France, both in 1920 and earlier. This increasingly riveting novel about war’s futility, grief, remembrance, and renewal is a solid effort timed just right for the WWI centenary. --Sarah Johnson
“Hope’s unblinking prose is reminiscent of Vera Brittain’s classic memoir Testament of Youth in its depiction of the social and emotional fallout, particularly on women, of the Great War. . . . Hope reaches beyond the higher echelons of society to women of different social classes, all linked by their reluctance to bid goodbye to the world the conflict has shattered.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Wake is a tender and timely novel, full of compassion and quiet insight. The author gives us a moving and original glimpse into the haunted peace after the Great War, her characters drawn by the gravity of the unmarked, the unknown, and perhaps, finally, the unhoped for.”—Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee
“Wake is a compelling and emotionally charged debut about the painful aftermath of war and the ways—small, brave, or commonplace—in which we keep ourselves going. It touches feelings we know, and settings—dance halls, war fronts, queues outside the grocer’s—that we don’t. I loved it.”—Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
“Wake is powerful and humane, a novel that charms and beguiles. Anna Hope’s characters are so real, flawed, and searching, and her prose so natural, one almost forgets how very great a story she is telling.”—Sadie Jones, author of The Uninvited Guests
“Using telling detail, Hope creates a vibrant physical and emotional landscape in which her leading characters, and a sea of others, move irresistibly into the future, some having found resolution, others still in search. Fresh, confident, yet understated, Hope’s first work movingly revisits immense tragedy while also confirming her own highly promising ability.”—Kirkus Reviews
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The novel focuses specifically on the British experience of and after World War I and on the later unveiling of Britain's Memorial Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It then uses this unveiling as a symbol of the ultimate coming to terms with grief, so slowly and so falteringly achieved and at such cost. The women who are the heroes of this work do begin to attain a new sense of self and a new hope for the future. They aWAKEn once more to a sense of possibility.
I strongly recommend this work and shall look forward to future novels by Anna Hope.
Author Anna Hope gives three definitions to the word "wake" in the front of her novel. I suppose the reader can attach meaning to any or all of her definitions. Go ahead, pick your own. I'm going to pick #2 - "wake" as "ritual for the dead". And the several days in November, 1920 that Hope chooses to write about are the days around the establishing of the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier". But the event, the ritual of entombing one of four soldiers who had lain unidentified in the battlefields of France and Flanders, was viewed by three women and two men. The three women, one the mother of a dead soldier, one who lost a lover in battle, and the other a young woman with a confused life in the "peace" that followed the war. The two years since the war's end had seen an influenza epidemic that had taken many lives of both soldiers and civilians. Former soldiers had come home to England in varying physical and mental states. Society was changing from war-time to post war and lives were changing with shorter hair and skirts.
Two of the women, Evelyn and Hettie, had brothers who fought and survived. Both men were emotionally fragile, as was a third man who was the catalyst who brought all three women's stories together in the final chapter of the book. Anna Hope takes a while getting to the conclusion and while all the women's stories eventually intertwine, getting there for the reader is sometimes slow. But stick with the book, it's worth it, I promise.
When I came to live in England and first experienced what I thought of as hysteria on Armistice day, I didn't understand how a war affects a nation for generations to come. Which is of course because I've never lived in such a nation. After having read a LOT about WW1 (and other wars) and now this book I believe that I understand it better. WW1 left a huge trauma in the general population and there's good reason why it has lasted a hundred years. Every family lost someone in that war and nobody could see the point and the government did very little to explain it - probably because there was no explanation.
In years to come I will regard the poppy on people's jackets and coats with respect and understanding - and be respectful of war traumas everywhere.