Wake: A Novel, Anna Hope
Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.
Hettie, a dance instructress at the Palais, lives at home with her mother and her brother, mute and lost after his return from the war. One night, at work, she meets a wealthy, educated man and has reason to think he is as smitten with her as she is with him. Still 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, more and more estranged from her posh parents, 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 Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out of work veterans. But when he shows signs of being seriously disturbed-she recognizes the symptoms of “shell shock”-and utters the name of her son she 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.
Wake takes place over the course of 5 days as the body of an unknown soldier is removed from a grave in France and brought to London to be entombed with great ceremony. I did not realize as I began this book the importance of the anonymous body being disinterred in France and I wish I had a better grasp of that because I was a little confused at times in the beginning. Unlike Holly, I really enjoy books with multiple points of view so I liked the switching from anonymous scenes in France, to Hettie, to Evelyn and to Ada despite my early confusion. The book was slow to start, but once I just went with the anonymous scenes in France it was very emotional and flowed well from woman to woman. Once you read this definition– “Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath,” you see its the perfect title for the women of this novel.
Ada is mourning her son, and yet hoping something caused her to receive the wrong news and that he didn’t die. Hettie is trying hardest to actually live, while giving her wages to her mother and trying not to resent her brother who was so affected by his war experience. And Evelyn is mourning her lost love and perhaps the most pitiable character as she is so full of anger and bitterness that she cannot move forward. This book was emotional and intense as the paths of these women brushed through each other and as they each came to terms with the body of the unknown soldier being presented in ceremony. Hope did an excellent job making these women feel real, not over dramatized at all as they changed over these 5 days. It was especially sobering to read knowing that WWII was coming in reality. I was thinking about this book for days after finishing it.
Thank you Random House and Netgalley for the advanced read copy for review!