Monday, March 10, 2014

Wake - Anna Hope

I have this thing about reading novels set during WWI, and mostly it's not been a good thing. I don't know what it is, or why it is, but it just is. 

Despite that, I chose to bring home an ARC of this one for two reasons: I liked the dress the woman was wearing on the cover and it mentioned being rather like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I did not read (see above) but which did very, very well for us at the shop. I thought I'd take one for the team by reading something that might appeal to that same audience. 

Anna Hope's Wake is told over five days in 1920 that lead up to the second anniversary of Armistice Day, to be observed in London by the entombment of an Unknown Soldier. We live these five days with three women, each grieving losses that the Great War visited on them: Hettie, who spends her evenings dancing with wounded veterans for sixpence in order to help support her sharp-tongued mother and war-wounded brother; Evelyn, a war widow who works at the Pension Exchange helping disabled veterans lodge complaints against the system, but whose heart is so hardened that their stories fail to move her; and Ada, whose grief for the death of her son Michael is sounding a death knell on her marriage as well. 

While these lives are moving toward that 5th day--the characters in a slow dance that will lead them, finally, into each others stories--we witness in a parallel tale the journey from a muddy, unmarked grave of the body of an Unknown Soldier to London's Cenotaph where he will be interred to great fanfare.

I was swept up in each of the stories, and was moved by dozens and dozens of Ms. Hope's elegantly written passages, none of which felt forced, all of which were slipped into the narrative perfectly. I love it when that happens. 

"Of turning away from him, and the feeling as she did so, as though she'd had her hand balled in a fist, held tight for years, and opened it, only to find that there was nothing inside."

Wake is not to be missed. 

***** of ***** 

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 2014

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