When I received my ARC copy of Anna Hope’s Wake there was a letter with it from someone at the publishing house telling me how this book should immediately go to the top of the pile in terms of my to-read list. I was assured, in no uncertain terms, that it was a book that would stay with me for weeks and one that I would tell all my friends about. Really, it sounded too good to be true. After all, it’s an advance copy not on sale for another couple weeks so selling the book is what the publishing house is supposed to do. I did not put a lot of stock in all the promises.
And I was proven wrong.
I put Wake on the top of my to-read pile and then I started reading. I finished it in about four days. It’s not the longest book in the world but I found myself trying to turn the pages with the hand holding the book while I stirred pasta with my other hand. That’s rare.
This novel may not be wordy and it may only span five days in November 1920, leading up to the two year anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, but it tells a thousand stories in the pages. Focused on three women from vastly different walks of life, and social classes, and telling each of there stories with an agonizing vividness that pulled me in from the start, the moral of the story is that no one wins in war. Not the soldiers who come, not the families who welcome them home, and not the families who never welcome anyone home.
Ada is a mother. She’s never had much in life, and she’s happy with that, and she loved her son more than anything. He never came home. She sees him everywhere.
Hettie is a sister. She’s never had much in life and she dreams of beaded dresses and men in tails spinning her around dance floors because they love her not because it’s her job as a dance instructor. She sees her brother as he is, a shell of the boy he once was. She wants him to live again.
Evelyn is a sister. She had everything she ever wanted in life except love. When she got it, the war took it away and she gave up everything else. Others accuse her of punishing herself by working in the Pensions Office. Maybe she is. She’s haunted by her lost love and by the brother who isn’t anything like the man he once was.
The three women are drawn together through what they lost and what they still have.
War crosses all boundaries and no one is safe it.
And yet we who watch war from the sidelines can survive it. If Ada and Hettie and Evelyn can do it, so can we. It won’t be pretty, though.
That’s the moral of this story.
It’s one I already want to read again because I know I missed things as I read it the first time. I look forward to reading it again.
(I received an advance copy of Anna Hope’s Wake from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway and you can find my review of it here.)