The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

WAKE: A Novel by Anna Hope

Wake by Anna Hope
Author:  Anna Hope
Publisher:  Random House
Expected Release Date:  February 11, 2014
Pages:  304

About the Book:  A brilliant debut for readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in which three women must deal with the aftershocks of WWI and its impact on the men in their lives-a son, a brother and a lover. Their tragic connection is slowly revealed as the book unfolds.

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 Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her.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.

Wanda's Review:  The stories of three women in London are cleverly woven together in this historical fiction novel. The common denominator was that their lives were all changed by World War I, but they all have a story of their own. The seemingly unrelated threads eventually all come together as the story unfolds over a period of five days and the characters struggle to cope with the difficult realities of grief and the aftermaths of World War I. 

Hettie is a dance instructress at Palais and gives half her weekly wages to her mother and her useless brother, Fred, who has deep seeded problems.  She has her own personal heartaches to get over and problems to resolve.

Evelyn, my favorite character, is from a wealthy family, but works in a pension office. She has a brother, Edward, to whom she was very close at one time, but now they barely speak. The war has hardly seemed to scar Edward and he has a limitless ability to dispense his charm. 

Ada has been married to Jack for 25 years. They have a son who is lost at war, but Ada is convinced he is alive. One day a young man appears on her doorstep selling notions and mentions her son's name, but quickly disappears. Ada also thinks she sees her son on the street.  She is also dealing with marital problems.

There were some interesting historical details brought to light as an unknown warrior is brought to London for burial. This part of the story is well done and really draws you in. 

Unfortunately the three stories are slow to pick up momentum and as a result the storyline fell a bit flat for me, not being as compelling as I had hoped. In many ways the story was touching and poignant, but the stories of the three women felt unnatural - a bit forced. Also, the characters failed to capture my heart and I didn't feel a satisfying conclusion to the storyline - just being lukewarm. But, on a positive note - the author cleverly evoked the flavor of this time in history. 

An interesting storyline, but not one I'd enthusiastically recommend. 3 stars. 
I was given a copy of this book from LibraryThings Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.